Saturday, April 21, 2018

HomeTeam 100: Players 1-10

Our fifth annual countdown of the top 100 football players in Tampa Bay — consisting of athletes who attend a public or private school in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco or Hernando counties. Past performances — spanning the fall, spring and summer — and promise of big things to come are all taken into consideration.

1. Malik Davis, Jesuit

Position: Running back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-11, 185

Scott Purks, Special to the Times

Malik Davis

Davis led Hillsborough County in rushing last season and became Jesuit's all-time leading rusher, even with one more season left to play for the Tigers. Davis has proven to be a game changer during his time at Jesuit, especially in big moments against rival Tampa Catholic, and will likely do the same this year as Jesuit shoots for yet another undefeated regular-season campaign.

Here's a look at Davis, by the numbers:

2,337 Yards rushing last season

1,210 Yards he needs to become Hillsborough County's all-time leading rusher

553 Rushing yards Davis has recorded in Jesuit's past two games against Tampa Catholic

50 Career touchdowns

28 Division I-A offers

2. Devan Barrett, Tampa Catholic

Position: Running back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-1, 195


Devan Barrett

Barrett was one of the top running backs in Hillsborough County a year ago, rushing for 1,891 yards (10.1 yards per carry) and 21 touchdowns. He boasts 40-plus college offers, including ones from Florida, Florida State, Miami and Alabama.

How's everything been going in the offseason?

"Team wise, we're looking pretty good out there. We just need to come together as a team and work on team things."

Last year was kind of your coming-out party. Are you expecting teams to make it tougher on you this time around?

"I would say so, but we have a lot of people out there like Darius (Corbett) and Bentlee (Sanders) and Austin (Sessums), our quarterback. I wouldn't say double teamed, but they'll pay attention to me, yeah."

Have you always played running back?

"That was actually my first position, on the Town 'N Country Packers. I was 6 six or 7."

When did you realize you wanted to pursue a future in football?

"My second or third year of little league, my dad, he put me in when I was a little kid but he wasn't too serious about it. But my second or third year he was like, 'Do you want to do this when you grow up?' And I said, 'Yeah,' and that's when I realized I kind of had to take it seriously."

How excited are you to make a college decision?

"It's a dream come true, and people wish they were in my shoes. It's just a thing you have to take slow and make sure you make the right decision."

3. Zachary Carter, Hillsborough

Position: Defensive end

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-5, 250

Andy Warrener, Special to the Times

Zachary Carter

Carter, a Florida commit, averaged 7.6 tackles per game a year ago and tallied 5.5 sacks. Here's what a few of his peers think about his talent:

Darrian McNeal, ATH, Armwood: "He's a force on the field. A guy that can play standing up or down on the line. He's a guy you have to scheme for. I know I keep an eye on him when I'm back behind center. Great player. Better person. Bright future."

Tyrese Spain, ATH, Jefferson: "When we played Hillsborough, he was in the backfield in my face almost every play. He has a motor that doesn't stop when he is on the field, and every play he gives it all he has no matter what position he plays."

Ken Montgomery, CB, Hillsborough: "What makes Zach good is his athletic ability to be around the ball where it is. He's not the normal defensive end. He can catch, he's quick, he's fast and he knows how to use his hands swiftly to get the ball. He can line up anywhere on the field and destroy his opponent."

Juwan Burgess, WR, Plant: "Zach is not normal. He's like a freak of nature. Zach has very aggressive hands coming off the ball, and he can also play some tight end as well, that's what makes him so good."

4. Darrian McNeal, Armwood

Position: Athlete

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-10, 175


Darrian McNeal

McNeal had a banner year for Armwood last season in his first as the starting quarterback. He threw for nearly 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns, with just four interceptions, and he contributed even more on the ground, recording a team-high 1,238 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns.

Usually, that would be more than enough success to remain under center. But this year, McNeal will have a new position — and it's one the versatile athlete is looking forward to.

The addition of former Lennard quarterback Devin Black allows McNeal to play in his more natural positions as a slot receiver and return man. He'll also play some defensive back.

"Darrian is very excited because he loves to play slot, because that's his position," teammate Brian Snead said.

McNeal, who recently committed to Arizona, said adjusting to a new quarterback has been made easier by the fact that he already knew Black through Unsigned Preps. Since he's been in Seffner, McNeal said, the two have been perfecting their chemistry.

With Black's help, McNeal has the opportunity to show off a different set of skills — one that will likely serve him well at the next level.

"It's just a chance for me to get better at what I'm going to be doing in college," McNeal said. "I want to show recruiters my hands."

5. CJ Cotman, Clearwater Central Catholic

Position: Athlete

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-10, 180


C.J. Cotman

For the past three seasons, Cotman has become a diminutive dynamo with his sure hands, uncommon speed and ability to make people miss. YouTube and Hudl have become shrines to his ankle-breaking catches and kick returns.

Highlights show him slicing through wedges, spinning away from defenders and wending around the field as if he was operated by a joystick.

But the video people watch most often of Cotman has nothing to do with his moves on the field.

Last year, Cotman posted a video on his Twitter account of him dancing around in a tiger-striped Snuggie while eating pizza. Cotman said he has plenty more goofy videos.

"I make at least three videos a week," Cotman said. "They're all really fun because I'm actually being myself and everyone likes to watch them. I love making people laugh."

But when it comes to choosing between a football and one of his own videos, Cotman picks the former.

"The highlight tape is better because it shows my talent," Cotman said.

Cotman's talent has helped him become a prized recruit. He has 32 Division I-A offers from nearly every title-contending school. He does not plan to make his college decision until national signing day.

For now, he said he is focused on staying healthy and trying to win a state title.

And if he ever stopped playing football, Cotman said he would be a comedian.

"I really would like that," he said.

6. Jordon Scott, Pinellas Park

Position: Defensive line

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-2, 340


Jordon Scott

Scott realized several years ago that he was never going to be one of those skinny kids who could eat whatever he wanted. So he might as well try to become the best 300-plus pound defensive back who tackles skinny kids that he can possibly be.

"It used to bother me but then I figured I should just embrace it," Scott said. "Before eighth grade, I got emotional about people calling me fat. But then I thought, well, I'm going to probably be fat for the rest of my life so I should just let it go."

That's not to say Scott just sits around doing nothing. He said he works out every day. Many times, he'll stay after offseason workouts to run sprints or lift extra weights.

"He is the hardest-working kid I have ever coached," coach Kenny Crawford said. "And he's one of the best players."

Scott routinely faced double teams, and sometimes triple teams, last season. Despite being outnumbered, he still managed to get 84 total tackles and nine sacks. Add to that the fact that Scott is a 4.0 grade-point average student, and Division I-A coaches took notice. Earlier in the summer, Scott verbally committed to the University of Florida, his dream school. He plans to enroll in January.

As for his final high school season, Scott wants to go out with a bang. He knows opponents will do what they can to stop him, which is why he's trying to add muscle to his already large frame. He is far removed from the chubby kid who had to get motivated to go to practice as a sixth-grader.

"I don't know what I'd do without football,'' he said.

7. Daquon Green, Tampa Bay Tech

Position: Wide receiver

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-1, 185


Daquon Green

Green was one of the best wide receivers in the Tampa Bay area last season, helping lead the Titans to a district runnerup finish and four wins in their last five games. This year, with the addition of a new quarterback in Michael Penix Jr., Green, a Florida commit, should be able to add to his already high totals. Here's a look at Green, by the numbers:

18 Division I-A offers

734 receiving yards in 2015

1,616 career receiving yards

5 career games with at least 100 yards

222 yards in his single-game career high, a 25-20 loss against Armwood last season

17 career touchdowns, including a career-long of 70 yards in a loss to Armwood

8. Devin Black, Armwood

Position: Quarterback

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 6-2, 160

Scott Purks, Special to the Times

Devin Black

Five things to know about Black:

1. Black is new to Armwood, transferring in from Lennard. Fortunately for Black, the Hawks run an offense with which he's quite familiar. "When I was in little league, this was kind of the same offense. But when I went to Lennard, there was a different offense, so I had to learn it from scratch," he said. "Now that I'm back in the old offense I'm used to, it's easier to pick up."

2. The junior said his adjustment has been made easier by the fact that he knows many of the Hawks through youth football and from playing in Hillsborough County. In fact, Black knows Armwood running back Brian Snead from when his youth team, the Ravens, beat Snead's Jaguars in the super bowl a few years ago. "It was 19-6," said Black, proudly. "We should have beaten them by more, but I'm not going to say anything more about that."

3. Last season, Black threw for 1,826 yards and 11 touchdowns in 10 games, completing nearly 50 percent of his passes. Black only ran for 97 and 336 yards, respectively, in his freshman and sophomore seasons, but he expects to have to run the ball a lot more as a Hawk, something that's a little bit out of his comfort zone. "It's no pressure (adjusting) because I've been doing it since I was a young boy. It's what I'm used to doing anyway," Black said about the transfer. "Now the run game is pressure, because I'm not used to doing so much running. But I can run when I need to."

4. Black made the move to Armwood because he was granted a school choice, but he still lives in Ruskin, not far from Lennard, and makes the more than 20-mile trip north to his new school. "I'm not going to lie to you, I'll miss Lennard," Black said. "But I'll adapt to this place and feel at home again."

5. Even though he's only been at Armwood for a short time, Black said he already feels a connection to Armwood coach Sean Callahan — not because he's always around, but because of the way he delegates his power. "He doesn't really worry about if you have to be on the field at this time, that's more of the assistant coach's job," Black said. "He's just a head coach, and that's what I like about him."

9. Matt Landers, Lakewood

Position: Wide Receiver

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-5, 180


Matt Landers

When Landers left Lakewood after his sophomore season to attend Admiral Farragut, he was only a star junior varsity player with loads of potential. Now a senior, Landers returns to Lakewood as a bona fide receiver who is committed to Georgia. He caught 15 touchdown passes and had 1,038 yards receiving.

How was your junior year at Admiral Farragut?

"That was a good experience, but I couldn't be there this year. Financially, I couldn't stay there, so that brought me back to my old school. But I know everybody here already. I've got good communication with everyone here."

Will it take a while to get used to a new quarterback (Jaylen Shazell)?

"I've played with him since little league. We grew up together. We already have a little bit of chemistry. I've thrown with him a lot this summer. I think we'll get that chemistry even stronger before the season starts."

You know you're going to be the player defenses want to stop. You ready to get double teamed?

"I don't really get frustrated. I only really get frustrated when I don't catch a ball I should. But I don't mind the double teams. I've been able to handle that so far."

You're going to play basketball, too?

"Yes. I played a little bit at Farragut but that didn't work out so I just concentrated on football. Before I left Lakewood I played on the junior varsity and a little bit of varsity."

Do the Georgia coaches know you're playing basketball?

"Yes. I'm going there to play football. Basketball isn't my main sport. I'm just playing it to stay in shape."

10. Richard Gouraige, Cambridge Christian

Position: Offensive lineman/defensive lineman

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 6-5, 260

Times files (2015)

Richard Gouraige

Gouraige has worn glasses since he was 4. That is not the most intimidating accessory for a player who is considered a five-star prospect by every major recruiting service.

Gouraige said he takes his glasses off during games. He does not wear goggles or contacts when he is on the field.

"I'm sure people think I'm nerdy or goofy if they see me away from the field," Gouraige said. "On the field, I'm okay without having my glasses. All I need to see is the ball and just go from there."

For the past two seasons, Gouraige has followed things on the field with aplomb.

MaxPreps listed him as a freshman All-American in 2014. Last season, he wreaked havoc on the both sides of the ball while leading the Lancers to the Class 2A state championship game.

Gouraige has more than 20 offers and said he receives at least 15 letters a day from colleges.

"It feels good just knowing that my hard work is paying off," he said.

While he is all business on the field, Gouraige is more of a goofball off of it. He said he is the jokester on the team, something he relishes in keeping the team hyped or relieving some stress.

Gouraige also likes to change his hairstyle. He has gone from a short, cropped cut as a freshman to a hightop as a sophomore. This season, he is sporting dreads.

What has not wavered is his commitment to getting Cambridge back to the playoffs again.

"The biggest thing I want to focus on is making everyone on the team better," Gouraige said. "That starts with me. I have to more of a leader. I have to be more vocal."

Compiled by staff writers Rodney Page, Kelly Parsons and Bob Putnam.

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