As the 2009 prep football season approaches, the Times will break down each position in the county. Today we take a look at running back.
Top returning tailbacks
1. Edwin McKinney, Osceola: A track star, McKinney has the speed to break loose for long gains. Last season, he rushed for more than 1,100 yards on a team that went 0-10. The Warriors have a lot of returners, which could help McKinney put up even bigger numbers.
2. Keelyan Bryant, St. Petersburg Catholic: The elusive back flew under the radar, despite rushing for more than 1,000 yards last season. Similar results should be expected this year provided the offensive line develops into a cohesive unit.
3. Malik Wilson, St. Petersburg: In a crowded Green Devil backfield, Wilson stands out because of his production. He ran for more than 100 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown in the spring game against SPC.
4. Latavien Washington, Boca Ciega: The diminutive back is no longer battling a sore ankle that plagued him last season. He could turn into the game-breaker the Pirates need now that he's healthy.
5. Darryl Copeland, Northeast: He becomes more of a focal point with Juarez Wynn graduating. But Copeland is not the only weapon so he won't gobble up every carry.
6. Mike Kendricks, Gibbs: He will remain a starter in a loaded backfield but will most likely split the workload with his brother, Maurice.
7. Jamaal Wilburn, East Lake: A thumper who can run between the tackles, Wilburn could develop into a bread-and-butter back for the Eagles.
Top returning fullbacks
1. Ben Sams, St. Petersburg: The big bruiser powered the Green Devils for more than 900 yards in the regular season last year.
2. Sean Holte, Largo: Though he doesn't get a ton of carries, Holte stands out because of his ability to deliver devastating blocks.
3. Dominique Ellis, Northeast: After playing more of a reserve role last season, Ellis should have a breakout year with Tim Tisdale graduating.
4. Jake Pendergist, Countryside: One of the more versatile fullbacks, Pendergist is adept at blocking and receiving and is capable of slipping out of the backfield on a pass.
Adrian Golden, Tarpon Springs: The transfer from Gulf broke a single-season Pasco County record with 2,514 yards and 34 touchdowns last year. He won't be expected to produce those type of numbers with the return of Ladarrius Only and Darius Daniels.
Keep an eye on
1. Alton Taylor, Countryside: A first-year starter, Taylor responded by rushing for 294 yards in the spring game against Naples Lely. Big games like that could become the norm with Taylor running behind a mammoth offensive line.
2. D.J. Key, Largo: He will be given the chance to carry the load at running back with the graduation of Marcel Durham. Key also will have a big, experienced line in front of him.
3. Byronton Jackson, Lakewood: A 1,000-yard rusher on junior varsity last season, Jackson moves into a starting role on offense. He ran for two touchdowns and caught a pass for another in the spring game against Dunedin. But he'll touch the ball only a handful of times due in large part to the Spartans' plethora of playmakers.
4. Oraian Bentley, Pinellas Park: After deciding not to play last season, Bentley returns as the back with the most potential for the Patriots.