By Joey Knight and Eduardo A. Encina
As the 2010 prep football season approaches, the St. Petersburg Times breaks down each position in the county. Today we wrap up the series with a look at defensive backs.
Top returning cornerbacks
1. Nick Addison, Spoto: You’ve seen his name on our quarterback and special teams lists, but it’s in the secondary where the 6-foot-3 Addison is at his best. He picked off a county-high seven passes last season and owns offers from Ole Miss, Iowa State, Washington State and Bethune-Cookman.
2. Tyree Clark, Alonso: The 5-foot-9 Clark, who just pocketed his first Division I-A offer last week from UConn, tallied six interceptions and made 42 tackles last season for the Ravens.
3. Rob Lohnes, Freedom: His 10 pass breakups last year speak for themselves. One of the best cover men in the county, the 5-foot-9 senior also had four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.
4. Rashad Dunnigan, Jefferson: Dunnigan really came into his own during the Dragons’ 2009 postseason run. The 5-foot-10 senior led the team with seven pass breakups and owns an offer from Georgia Southern.
5. Quinton Brown, Hillsborough: Armwood transfer gives the Terriers’ defense size (6-0, 180 pounds) and physical play they need after the departure of USF recruit Terrence Mitchell.
Top returning safeties
1. Jermaine “Juice” McKinney, Armwood: A first-team all-state linebacker last season, McKinney (119 tackles, 13 sacks) was moved to free safety to provide depth in the Hawks’ young secondary. McKinney’s cool with it; he’s being recruited at that position.
2. Rodney Mills, Jefferson: Mills has been a big-play defender for the Dragons since his sophomore year, so he’s no secret. The 5-foot-11 senior had five picks last year, including two interceptions against Hillsborough. Big Ten schools Iowa and Minnesota have offered.
3. John Taylor, Middleton: The 6-foot-1 senior free safety is a ball hawk. He averaged 12 tackles a game for the Tigers last season and picked off five passes. Had at least 15 tackles in four games.
4. Donald Smith, Spoto: At 6-2 and more than 200 pounds, Smith, who had four picks last season, is brimming with physical potential, not to mention Division I interest. Washington State, Iowa, Iowa State and Wake Forest have offered.
5. Ruben Gonzalez, Robinson: Debate abounds on whether this 6-foot-3 two-way Knight projects more highly as a receiver or DB at the next level. As a junior, Gonzalez registered 42 tackles and an interception.
Keep an eye on
1. Eric Patterson, Plant: The 5-foot-10 senior and junior safety Drew Madhu are the only experienced players in a depleted Plant secondary that returns no starters. Patterson had only 14 tackles last season, but also made four pass breakups and an interception.
2. Tanner Stocker, Wharton: The Wildcats’ most versatile athlete played quarterback and safety (52 tackles, one INT) while kicking and punting last season. Don’t be shocked if he multi-tasks again this year.
3. Brandon Simmons, Jefferson: The 6-foot senior had just 19 tackles last season, but made a pick against Plant and owns a scholarship offer from Georgia Southern.
4. Tyree Holder, Tampa Catholic: One of the speediest corners in the county, he can fly with any wideout down the sideline. The 5-foot-9 junior had three interceptions for the Crusaders last year.
5. Anthony McLeod, Middleton: He can play either outside linebacker or strong safety, which is where the Tigers will place him this year. He has the size (6-1, 190) to make an impact like those who wore No. 8 (A.J. Jones, Buster Hickman) at Middleton before him.
6. Josh Celerin, Brandon: Celerin, who shares quarterback duties with Alan Knippel, might be the Eagles’ best overall athlete now that Sean Watson has graduated. Built solidly (6-0, 190), he’ll double at safety and projects as a defensive back at the next level.
7. Nelson Agholor, Berkeley Prep: When he wasn’t electrifying the Buccaneers’ offense, Agholor was roaming its secondary. As a sophomore, he had four picks and seven pass deflections.
8. Trevon Graham, East Bay: A 6-2 sophomore, Graham had two picks as a freshman. He’ll patrol an Indians defense that might be better than expected.
Other stories in this series: