Thursday, April 19, 2018

HomeTeam 100: Players 11-20

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.

11. Dillan Gibbons, Clearwater Central Catholic

Position: Offensive lineman

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-6, 305

Jay Nolan, Special to the Times

Dillan Gibbons

Why we ranked him: The mammoth lineman transferred in the offseason from Northside Christian, where he helped the Mustangs reach the playoffs each of the past two seasons. He has received plenty of accolades for his performance on the field. Last season, he was a Class 2A, first-team all-state selection and was named a small-school All-American by MaxPreps. Nearly every recruiting service has Gibbons rated as a four-star recruit. The Notre Dame commit can concentrate on helping the Marauders reach the state semifinals for a fifth straight season and try to make the state championship game for the first time since 2013.

12. Judge Culpepper, Plant

Position: Tight end

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 6-4, 235


Judge Culpepper

Your recruiting has picked up this past offseason. How has that process been going?

"It's great. It's amazing to be recognized and stuff, and I'm just really excited for what the season holds. I just want to get that state championship for Plant."

With your brother (former Plant quarterback Rex Culpepper) at Syracuse, have you given the Orange any thought?

"Definitely. It always crosses my mind. Syracuse was my first Division I offer, so they'll always be in my heart somewhere, but I really haven't given the recruiting process too much thought. I'm really just worried about Plant and getting that W in the state championship."

You spent some time at quarterback last season, but how excited are you start focusing on your more natural position?

"Absolutely, definitely. Tight end is awesome. It's really fun, and I'm also getting a lot better at defensive line and I'll be playing a lot of that as well, so hopefully I can really make an impact on offense and on defense."

What did you learn from your brother while you were teammates last year?

"We're two peas in a pod. We're still communicating, still talking. I love him to death. He's the best. Probably the biggest thing I learned is that no matter what life throws at you, keep moving forward. He tore his ACL before the season last year and it was super sad, but he toughed through it over time and physical therapy. He worked really hard, and now he's playing in college, and that's just amazing to me."

13. Adarius Lemons, Clearwater

Position: Running back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-2, 185


Adarius Lemons

Why we ranked him: The North Carolina commit rushed for 1,054 yards and 11 touchdowns last season while leading the Tornadoes to their first district title since 2003. It was the first time Lemons rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season. What makes the total even more impressive is that he averaged just 13 carries per game and was hampered by injuries the second half of the season. He has the speed to turn the corner and run by defenders. Last season, he had a run of 20 yards or more in eight of the 10 games he played. With an offense that returns nearly everyone, Lemons has the potential to be a 1,500-yard rusher on a team that has designs on a deep playoff run.

14. Steven Ogletree, Plant City

Position: Linebacker

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-1, 230


Steven Ogletree

Ogletree didn't like lifting weights. Didn't believe in it. Didn't see the point.

"I thought it was overrated," said Ogletree, who always was among the best players without lifting. "It didn't seem to help me too much."

But things have changed a lot in the past few years.

As teammates and opponents got stronger around him, and as college recruiters came in and asked about bench press and squat numbers, Ogletree got the message — then he got in the weight room.

"If you want to play at the next level," he said, "you have to be stronger."

And stronger he is.

After a steadily rising regimen the past few years, Ogletree has improved his bench press to 285 from 185 and his squat to 415 from 285. He's also gotten quicker and faster with consistent speed and agility drills.

The biggest improvement for the Florida Atlantic commit has come in the last year, which could mean a monster senior year for the stronger/faster Ogletree, who last year averaged almost 11 tackles a game and totaled nine sacks on the season.

15. Cade Weldon, Jefferson

Position: Quarterback

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-3, 200


Cade Weldon

Why we ranked him: Weldon, a Miami commit, missed most of last season after tearing his ACL in the first game against Tampa Bay Tech, but now he's back and should be better than ever. Weldon said he feels around 90 percent, and this offseason he's been focusing on getting his speed back and feeling confident when he plants his foot. But as long as the three-star recruit continues to progress, he's got the arm and the offensive weapons around him to make an impact. Aiding Weldon will be Jefferson's mammoth offensive line, which features five returning seniors. "It stunk last season having to sit out, but it made them have to step up and be more leaders than they would have needed to be," Weldon said. "Me coming back, we're going to be a pretty good offensive unit."

16. Juwan Burgess, Plant

Position: Wide receiver

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-0, 185


Juwan Burgess

Late last fall, Burgess came back from his eligibility hearing with bad news.

The former Blake player switched schools earlier that year because of a family issue, and the Florida High School Athletic Association deemed the move was a hardship, which could have restored the junior's eligibility to play for the Panthers. Instead he learned that Hillsborough County residency forms were going to keep him off the field until his senior season.

When he returned to Plant with the news, Burgess and coach Robert Weiner cried in Weiner's office for 20 minutes.

"After that I said, 'Juwan, just go home and spend some time with your dad,' " Weiner recalled. "And then I walked out on the field, and he was out on the field as scout team quarterback."

Even disappointment couldn't peel Burgess away from the field.

Despite not being able to suit up on Friday nights, the three-star recruit spent all week being tackled during practice on the scout team. During games, he was on the sideline cheering on his teammates. At the end of the year, Burgess won the best teammate award by an overwhelming margin.

Burgess will finally be able to play for Plant this season and will likely shine as one of many talented skill players in the offense. Burgess said the time away, during which his baby brother was born, has made him appreciate the opportunity he has so much more.

"Me watching (my newborn brother) grow and waiting on getting cleared and stuff made me see and realize I have to go even harder if they let me play this year," he said. "I'm coming in with a chip on my shoulder."

17. Jacquez Jones, Clearwater

Position: Wide receiver

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-11, 170


Jacquez Jones

Jones, a Tennessee commit, is an elusive receiver who put up big numbers last season with 51 catches for 974 yards and nine touchdowns. In the spring game against Clearwater Central Catholic, Jones had five catches for 107 yards, including an 81-yard score. We asked some of Jones' peers what they think of him.

Tupac Blanch, DB, East Lake: "That's my boy. We've been going at it my whole life. He's definitely a beast. What makes him so good is his moves off the line and the fact he's so quick."

Austin Day, QB, Clearwater: "If Jacquez sees a teammate slacking he will get on that person to make sure they get their head straight. That's his biggest virtue as a teammate. As a receiver, he simply doesn't drop anything, and I can rely on him to get the ball whenever he's needed."

Jervon Newton, DB, Clearwater Central Catholic: "Quez is definitely one of the top five receivers in the bay area. The thing that makes him an elite receiver is his speed and quickness"

Cam Tisdale, DB, Largo: "His technique makes him such a good receiver. He has great feet and quickness off the ball. He can go up and snag them. Defensive backs have to stay attached to him because he can move."

18. Brian Snead, Armwood

Position: Running back

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 5-11, 200


Brian Snead

Snead was one of two 1,000-yard plus rushers for the Hawks a year ago. As a sophomore, Snead averaged 7.1 yards per carry and was responsible for 17 of the team's 50 rushing TDs.

You're part of a running back corps from last year that's basically all returning.

"It's very exciting. I get one more year with these guys, and hopefully we can accomplish more goals and reach for a higher goal (winning state) than last year."

Armwood has a couple new players, including quarterback Devin Black. Have you been able to build chemistry with any of the guys?

"We're really cool. I've known Devin Black since little league; he had beaten us in the super bowl. … I'm still trying to get over that a little bit."

What was your most memorable game last year?

"I've got two; it was (Tampa Bay) Tech and Hillsborough. Those were games where I had to really buckle down and get my team together. Get their heads straight, keep positive vibes around and stuff like that. We were down, and we just had to bring them all together as a team and just say, 'Hey, we've got to go all together as one.' "

You've got 12 offers. Have you thought about where you might want to play college football?

"I'm thinking about committing soon. I'm just looking for someone that's going to take me in, take care of me, watch out for me. Just keep me straight, good academics and help me build my future and my goals."

19. Jean Marcellus, Jefferson

Position: Offensive lineman

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-3, 295


Jean Marcellus

Five things to know about Marcellus:

1. Marcellus was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and lived there for three years. He hasn't been back to his birthplace since but would like to some day. "I'd like to get that cultural feeling," he said. "My mom makes Haitian food a lot. My favorite is just regular old rice and Haitian pasta."

2. Marcellus will be one of five returning starters to Jefferson's offensive line, all of them seniors. It's a group that had to adjust on the fly last year when the starting quarterback went down in the first game of the season. "We learned anything can happen in this game, so everybody has to play their role," Marcellus said. "Everybody has to really be there for each other."

3. When he's not playing football, Marcellus enjoys playing the bass guitar. He also plays at his church, Bible Tabernacle in Brandon. "Most likely I play the blues, gospel songs," Marcellus said. "I taught myself, mostly, and then I started seeing other people do it."

4. Marcellus and the rest of the offensive line spend a lot of time together off the field. One of their favorite activities is hanging out at their offensive line coach's house. "He's got a big house. We like to play in the pool, play some games," Marcellus said. "I finally know how to play that game people do at tailgates with the bean bags. … I'm good now that I actually learned how to play."

5. Marcellus has 13 Division I-A offers, including ones from Kentucky, Louisville and Miami.

20. Antoine Thompson, Plant City

Position: Wide receiver/safety/cornerback

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-1, 175


Antoine Thompson

Thompson by the numbers:

4 Years starting for the Raiders

5 Receiving touchdowns last season

11 Victories last year, a school-record Thompson believes could be improved on in 2016. "I think this team can be even better than last year's," he said. "We've been together for four years. We have the chemistry. We believe in each other."

20 Universities showing significant interest in Thompson

23.1 Average yards gained per reception as a junior

29 Tackles in five games last season at free safety. "I like playing both ways," he said. "Anything I can do to help that's what I'll do."

30 Receptions last year

709 All-purpose yards in 2015

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

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