While the current Tampa Bay Buccaneers were kicking off their preseason drills a few miles east Friday, several ex-Bucs were putting dozens of the area’s top offensive skill players through their own morning mini-camp.
Ten days before state high schools can officially begin fall football practice, the group assembled at Skyway Park to have their technique refined by the likes of Bucs alumni Casey Weldon, Reidel Anthony, Todd Yoder and Jeff Jagodzinski.
Former Tampa Bay Storm quarterback and renowned local passing coach John Kaleo organized the four-hour event, which attracted three Division I commitments and several other big-time prospects such as Armwood’s Alvin Bailey and Jesuit’s Vincent Jackson.
“I’ve been playing with the best out here,” said Alonso quarterback Brandon Hawkins, who won the skills competition. “It’s good getting your timing down with other receivers and seeing how it’s going to be. If you go to the college level, you’re going to have to get used to receivers just like this.”
When the camp adjourned shortly after noon, so did the summer showcase season, for all practical intents. The next time we see these guys, they’ll be in helmets. With that in mind, here are our Friday observations — a preseason primer, if you will.
• Strawberry Crest junior Alex Carswell (6-4, 198 pounds) and senior Karel Hamilton (6-1, 180) are Hillsborough County’s most underrated receivers. Both were also impressive at last week’s Sling-N-Shoot II at USF.
• Gaither sophomore Alex McGough is one of Hillsborough County’s top three quarterbacks …right …now. Has a huge right arm and continues to develop as he waits for his first offer.
• Steinbrenner junior Curtis Fitch is a quarterback in a fullback’s body. Smart, competitive and can make darned near every throw.
• Largo, which doesn’t typically do much on the summer “fake” football circuit, showed up with quarterback Juwan Brown, linebacker Derrick Doss and wide receiver Raheem Harvey. Doss held his own even if he was a bit out of his element, and Brown showed that he deserves to be named among the elite quarterbacks in Tampa Bay. He fit right in.
• St. Petersburg Catholic left tackle Reilly Gibbons was supposed to participate, but got sick Thursday night. The Baron was hoping to compete with the tight ends, a position he played before switching this spring. He showed up late (and picked up an offer from Missouri on his way over) but only as a spectator.
• McGough and Wharton’s Chase Litton are considered the cream of Tampa Bay’s 2014 crop at quarterback, but look out for Berkeley Prep’s Brad Mayes, a 2015 prospect who competed well Friday. Mayes has been to a number of camps this summer and has big-time potential. He was the only 2015 player in the field.
• Tampa Catholic wide receiver Zach Benjamin caught everything thrown his way. He’s been a revelation since standing out for Team Tampa and while he has eight offers mostly from MAC schools, he still looks deserving of something bigger.
• Clearwater Central Catholic receiver Michael Stevenson was named the overall MVP on Friday. The 6-foot, 175-pounder has offers from USF, UCF, Pitt and Wake Forest, among others.
• Alonso rising senior QB Brandon Hawkins won the skills-challenge portion of the mini-camp, in which throwers were evaluated on at least three different routes, as well as drop-step technique.
Staff writer John C. Cotey contributed to this report.