As the 2010 prep football season approaches, the St. Petersburg Times will break down each position on the North Suncoast. Today we take a look at athletes, those kids who can play at an elite level at virtually any position.
Athletes to watch
1. Ja’Juan Story, QB/WR/DB, Nature Coast: The senior is the most sought-after recruit since former Land O’Lakes star Drew Weatherford. The Florida commitment was expected to continue as a receiver and defensive back for the Sharks, but the lack of a true quarterback forced new coach Mark Nash to move Story behind center. The benefit is that the ball will be in Story’s hands on every play. Most colleges saw the 6-foot-4, 185-pounder as a receiver, though Georgia Tech wanted him as a quarterback. Often overlooked is Story’s play on defense. He can easily defend the area’s top receivers one-on-one. Last year he had 22 tackles, a sack and five pass deflections. Offensively, he compiled more than 800 yards of offense, including five touchdowns.
2. Jamie Byrd, DB/RB, Pasco: Whether it’s at linebacker, defensive back, running back or receiver, Byrd makes plays. Byrd’s biggest attribute is his desire to succeed. It resulted in being named the North Suncoast defensive player of the year last season after he led the Pirates with 129 hard-hitting tackles. He also had 136 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
3. Isaac Bailey, DB/RB, Nature Coast: He first caught our attention in the secondary, grabbing three interceptions last year. And when Nature Coast needed to find replacements for Tevin Drake and Antwan Story in the backfield, Bailey became an obvious choice to take on a running back role. He showed he could handle the job in a 20-13 loss to Tampa Catholic in the spring. Bailey rushed for 231 yards and an 80-yard score on 14 carries.
4. Austin Jackson, RB/DB, Gulf: The 5-foot-11, 180-pound speedster made his greatest impact as a defensive back last season with a team-leading 118 tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries. He should get more opportunities to improve on his 211 yards and two touchdowns as a tailback. Jackson is charismatic, which could help him become a leader in Gulf’s bid to become a playoff contender.
5. Duke Morrison, TE/DL, Zephyrhills: This stone-cold house of bricks once was listed as an offensive lineman and said he expects to play tight end this fall. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder is versatile, with 33 tackles last year on the defensive line. Based on his bravado and determination to help return the Bulldogs to prominence under first-year coach Reggie Roberts, expect Morrison to have a big impact.
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