Friday, November 24, 2017
Sports

HomeTeam 100: Players 1-10

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Our sixth 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. Today: players 11-20.

1. Nicholas Petit-Frere, Berkeley Prep

Position: Offensive lineman

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-6, 275

Listed as the 56th-best player in the country and the sixth-best offensive tackle on 247's composite ranking for the 2018 class, Petit-Frere enters the season as the area's most highly coveted recruit. He has offers from just about every major college, including Alabama, Florida, Michigan and Ohio State. Last season, he opened holes for Gordon Stetson to rush for more than 1,000 yards and helped the Buccaneers reach the Class 3A state semifinals. Petit-Frere is playing in the Under Armour All-American Game and said he will make his college decision after the season.

HIGHLIGHTS: Nicholas Petit-Frere.

Andres Leiva | Times

OL Nicholas Petit-Frere

2. Malcolm Lamar, Armwood

Position: Defensive lineman

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-6, 261

You're rated as a four-star recruit and one of the top eight defensive linemen in the country. Where do you rank yourself among the defensive linemen in the bay area?

"I feel I'm the most dominant. I work real hard at it. I'm at workouts with the team in the morning and then I go to a personal trainer in the afternoon. We work mostly on technique and just trying to become more athletic."

You have any brothers that play football?

"My older brother is Greg Jenkins (former Wesley Chapel standout who played in the NFL and CFL). I used to go to all his games and we stay in touch all the time. His success makes me want to get to that level even more because I know it can be done."

What are some things you like to do in your spare time?

"I make YouTube videos with my girlfriend. We have about 10 of them. We mostly do challenges, like eating the spiciest wings at Buffalo Wild Wings."

You've narrowed your college choices to Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Oregon and Tennessee. When do you think you will make a decision?

"I want to wait, so I'll commit on national signing day."

What are your goals this season?

"I want to have 20 sacks. I think it can be done. I had seven sacks in the first couple of games before a knee injury slowed me down. It's hard because our scheme is designed to have the linebackers make a lot of tackles. But I think it can be done."

HIGHLIGHTS: Malcolm Lamar.

Charlie Kaijo | Times

DL Malcolm Lamar

3. Richard Gouraige, Cambridge Christian

Position: Offensive lineman/defensive lineman

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-6, 275

Gouraige is always easy to spot on the football field. He's the big lineman who is usually knocking people down as running backs whiz past. But this season he'll be extra easy to spot.

"We've got Richard on the line but otherwise we're a little thin there," Lancers coach Bob Dare said. "So the strategy will be to run the ball behind Richard."

That's just fine with top running back Andrew Cunningham.

"I'm just going to follow Richard down field," Cunningham said.

Gouraige came to Cambridge as a freshman and also played basketball. He quickly found out that his future is in football. He will play on the offensive and defensive lines for the Lancers, but is being recruited by top colleges like Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida and Florida State as an offensive lineman. He hasn't set a commitment date.

He has size and quickness, coveted assets for linemen. Gouraige said he enjoys the challenges of blocking on every play.

"It's all about preparing for the guy across from you," he said. "It's those battles on every play and the schemes and trying to beat those guys. That's the most fun."

HIGHLIGHTS: Richard Gouraige.

Andy Warrener | Special to the Times

OL/DL Richard Gouraige

4. Michael Penix Jr., Tampa Bay Tech

Position: Quarterback

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-3, 185

Here are two numbers that tell you all you need to know about Penix as a quarterback: 31-1. That's 31 touchdowns and one interception last season as a junior.

"And that one interception was tipped up in the air by the receiver," Titans coach Jayson Roberts said.

He also threw for a school-record 2,078 yards and led TBT to the second round of the Class 7A playoffs. It's hard to imagine a quarterback having a better season, but that's what Penix will try to do. The tall left-hander is again surrounded by talented receivers and an offensive line that should be better than last season.

A transfer from Pasco prior to last season, Penix has clearly fit in.

"I just knew when I got here that there were a lot of athletes out wide," Penix said. "I knew it was going to be a good season. All I had to do was get them the ball and good things were going to happen."

It didn't take Roberts long to realize he had a bona fide quarterback.

"I knew he was good but I didn't know he was that good," Roberts said. "He did some things that made up for a few of our deficiencies. We were playing Armwood and he had to scramble away from pressure. He had two guys on him and he still managed to throw the ball right on the numbers for a touchdown just before he got hit."

Penix considers himself a pocket-style passer who only runs when he has to. He scored six rushing touchdowns last season. His height and accuracy made him a target for several Division I-A colleges. He recently committed to Tennessee.

HIGHLIGHTS: Michael Penix Jr.

Charlie Kaijo | Times

QB Michael Penix Jr.

5. Brian Snead, Armwood

Position: Running back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-11, 200

We asked some of Snead's peers what they think of the Ohio State commit after he rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored 30-plus touchdowns combined the past two seasons:

Devin Black, QB, Armwood: "Brian is such a good running back because of his strength and speed. He also is a great teammate because of how he can goof off but then when it's time to work, then he can make sure everyone is accountable. He is a very hard worker, too."

Micah McFadden, LB, Plant: "First, you have to get to (Snead) to bring him down, which is easier said than done. He is so big and powerful and can run through people to get to the next level. But he also is fast enough to get through the hole quick and just run by you. He's got it all. I'm sure he's even bigger now than when we played him last year so we will definitely have our hands full trying to stop him again."

Ashton Mincey, LB, Plant City: "The thing that makes him stand out is his speed and power. He was tough to bring down and the best running back we faced last season."

HIGHLIGHTS: Brian Snead

Charlie Kaijo | Times

RB Brian Snead

6. Devin Black, Armwood

Position: Quarterback

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-2, 168

Three things to know about Black:

1. Black views himself as a pro-style quarterback who can use his legs when needed. "I would rather just sit in the pocket and throw the ball, but the offense I'm in permits me to run as well which is showing all of my ability." Last year, he accounted for more than 2,600 total yards. His versatility got the attention of Louisville and Indiana, the two schools he will decide between in the next month.

2. After transferring from Lennard last year, Black made the playoffs for the first time. Armwood lost in the region semifinals, and Black and his teammates are trying to get to the state title game. His said his personal goal is to complete 60 percent of his passes.

3. Black's favorite food is asparagus, pan-seared with lemon. He eats it at least twice a week. "If I don't have asparagus, I can't enjoy dinner."

HIGHLIGHTS: Devin Black

Charlie Kaijo | Times

QB Devin Black

7. Jermaine Eskridge, Jefferson

Position: Wide receiver/defensive back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-3, 190

Three things to know about Eskridge:

1. After transferring from Alonso, Eskridge had to sit out his sophomore season. He made an immediate impact upon his return with 39 catches for 668 yards and six touchdowns. He has more than 50 offers from nearly every major program. Some want him as a receiver. Others want him as a defensive back. He said he will make his decision after the season.

2. Eskridge used to wear No. 2 but switched to No. 1 before the start of the 2016 regular season to honor his cousin, Freddy Benson, who was shot and killed last August. "I wear it to show that he is No. 1 in my heart."

3. Eskridge is playing safety as well as receiver this season. He will team up in the secondary with his brother, Jaylen Striker, who transferred from Bradenton Manatee. For Eskridge the goals are simple. "I want to win a state title and have 1,000 yards receiving. Oh, and get a couple of picks on defense, too."

HIGHLIGHTS: Jermaine Eskridge

Andres Leiva | Times

WR/DB Jermaine Eskridge

8. Andrew Cunningham, Cambridge Christian

Position: Running back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-1, 215

If everything goes as planned, Cunningham will leave a rushing record at Cambridge Christian that may be hard to beat. He has played varsity football since the eighth grade, rushing for 3,770 yards and scoring 60 touchdowns in that span.

His best season was his sophomore year, when he gained 1,370 yards, scored 25 touchdowns and led the Lancers to the Class 2A state final. He should have more than 5,000 career yards by the time he leaves high school. His final goal? To surpass 2,000 yards in a season.

"I'd say I'm extra motivated," Cunningham said. "I've been training harder this year than I ever have. We'll see what the outcome is."

Cunningham has several offers, mainly from out-of-state schools like Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State and Utah. He said he could make a decision by the end of the month.

Whichever school he selects, it's going to get a powerful back with above average skills.

"I like to model my game after four people," Cunningham said. "(Penn State's) Saquon Barkley, (Cowboys') Ezekiel Elliott, (Jets') Matt Forte and (Texans') Arian Foster. I like the way they run. I'm more of a glider type. I think I'm an all down back. I can catch, block, run, make cuts.''

HIGHLIGHTS: Andrew Cunningham

Andres Leiva | Times

RB Andrew Cunningham

9. Amari Burney, Calvary Christian

Position: Wide receiver/defensive back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-2, 215

You made it to the final of the Opening. What was the experience like being at Nike's campus in Oregon?

"The opening was great. It was fun with all those five stars competing. Everybody out there was great at their position so it was great for me to play with them."

What was the most memorable moment of the trip?

"When Odell Beckham showed up. He was a cool, down-to-earth type of guy. We were having a dance contest and he started dancing and it got everyone hyped."

You transferred from Clearwater Central Catholic in the offseason. What was the biggest adjustment you had to make going to a new school?

"There really was not that big of an adjustment. It feels like I've been at Calvary Christian all four years."

Why do you wear No. 6?

"When I was 12 we won the 12-and-under national championship with the West Tampa Spartans so I've been wearing it ever since. I used to wear No. 1. (Cambridge Christian's) Richard Gouraige was my teammate on that West Tampa team."

HIGHLIGHTS: Amari Burney

Jay Nolan | Special to the Times

WR/DB Amari Burney

10. Isaiah Bolden, Wesley Chapel

Position: Athlete

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-3, 185

Monica Herndon | Times

ATH Isaiah Bolden

In a sport where specialization is everywhere, from cover corners, to rush ends to pass-catching running backs, Bolden continues to play football the old-fashioned way: one-platoon.

Wesley Chapel has its four-star recruit listed as a quarterback and defensive back on the roster. But he could line up as a running back. Or a receiver.

And don't forget about special teams. He will return kicks, too.

"I won't really be leaving the field," Bolden said.

His football prowess comes from his father, Juran Bolden, a former standout at Hillsborough High who played for six teams in the NFL, including the Buccaneers.

Bolden's father was a cornerback. That is the position where Isaiah excels, too.

Still, Isaiah is too good to play just half a game. So he is on offense as much as possible.

In college that will change. The schools on his short list want him as a defensive back.

The toughest part is picking which one.

Isaiah initially committed to FSU. He backed out of it this summer to pledge his allegiance to Oregon. But he still likes the Seminoles.

"I'll probably go back and forth with both schools until I make up my mind after the season," he said.

HIGHLIGHTS: Isaiah Bolden

     
         
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