Ryan Davis can barely remember a time when he hasn’t been surrounded by football.
His older brother, Chris, was the quarterback at St. Petersburg Catholic before spending four years as a receiver at Florida State. Ryan would tag along on recruiting trips and visit Chris on game days in Tallahassee.
He then spent many other Saturdays running circles around pee-wee opponents as a spread-offense quarterback.
When Mike Jalazo took over at Northeast last season, he didn’t hesitate in naming Davis, then a freshman, his starting quarterback.
“What I like about Ryan, you draw something up for him and he can run every play,’’ Jalazo said. “He just soaks it up. He’s a football junkie.’’
Jalazo never got to see Davis’ full potential last season. Almost a year ago against St. Petersburg, Friday’s opponent, Davis landed awkwardly after throwing a pass and broke his left wrist. He missed the final six games of the season and the Vikings limped to a 4-6 record.
Healthy again, Davis and the Vikings are off to a fast start. Northeast is 3-0 heading into its district showdown with the Green Devils.
Davis has thrown for 652 yards and four touchdowns; he’s run for almost 200 more yards.
Running the spread-option offense, Davis has emerged as a dual-threat offensive weapon.
“He is not your typical sophomore,’’ Jalazo said. “His football IQ is off the charts.’’
That IQ has allowed Jalazo to do something most coaches would never do with a sophomore. Davis has the freedom to check out of plays if he sees a hole in the defense, leading to a lot of offensive production — Northeast racked up 363 yards against Boca Ciega — but not points (12 vs. Bogie).
“I like the passing part of it,’’ Davis said. “I like to see holes in the defense and then just pick them apart. I like having the option to run or pass or change a play if I see something. Coach told me that if I see something, change it.
“But then on the plays that really count, that’s when I need to be more accurate. Sometimes the ball leaves my hand too late. I need to tighten up on that. We get all these yards but we don’t get enough points. We’ve got to finish and take pressure off the defense.’’
The offensive game plan doesn’t just rely on Davis. Running back Keith Harrington already has 242 yards receiving and 218 yards rushing. Receiver Tyrell Hubbard Smith has 11 catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, 10 players have caught a pass. Davis has clearly been able to keep his teammates happy.
Though not the biggest player at 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, his talent certainly draws attention.
“He’s ahead of where Chris was as a sophomore,’’ said Northeast assistant coach Dan Mancuso, who coached Chris Davis at St. Petersburg Catholic.
“It’s going to be interesting to see him as a senior.”
Rodney Page can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.