Six days remain before the start of fall football practice. To celebrate, we begin our position-by-position breakdown of the North Suncoast's top players. Today we look at the area's best quarterbacks.
1. Zack Wynn, Sr., Hudson
2008 stats: Completed 164 of 280 passes for 2,035 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Also rushed 85 times for 274 yards and five touchdowns.
Notable: At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Wynn led the North Suncoast in passing for the second straight season though the Cobras finished a disappointing 3-7. Wynn has all the physical tools and the brains — he's being recruited by Harvard among others — to help Hudson compensate for weaker areas. And he seems to be fully recovered after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at the end of the 2007 season. Wynn has passed for more than 4,500 yards in three seasons, but loses No. 1 receiver Dylan Buono (Mitchell transfer), who had 759 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
2. Madison Burr, Sr., Gulf
2008 stats: Completed 71 of 126 passes for 1,247 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Also rushed 55 times for 387 yards and nine touchdowns.
Notable: Burr improved as a two-way threat, eclipsing previous career highs in passing and rushing yardage. His dual-threat capabilities made him a perfect complement with running back Adrian "Bubba" Golden (Tarpon Springs transfer) and his injury absence was felt significantly in a 50-0 loss at Pasco in a Class 3A region final. Now most of the load seems to be on Burr's shoulders with no clear replacement in the backfield. But with his legs and talented targets such as tight end Leon Orr, Burr appears to be headed for another career year.
3. D.J. Clower, Sr., Pasco
2008 stats: Completed 75 of 149 passes for 18 touchdowns and three interceptions. Also rushed 86 times for 168 yards and four touchdowns.
Notable: Clower finally got his opportunity to lead the offense without rotating, and it paid off as he helped guide Pasco to the Class 3A state semifinal. Now with key players such as Josh Johnson and Jamall Haynes gone (they combined for 2,297 yards and 24 touchdowns), the Pirates will rely more on Clower's feet and arm. He has top targets Chaise Dunn and Hakeeme Ishmar returning, and a recent selection to the O-D All-American Bowl should only boost his confidence.
4. Stevie Weatherford, Jr., Land O'Lakes
2008 stats: Completed 94 of 158 passes for 1,254 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Also rushed 60 times for 163 yards for three touchdowns.
Notable: One fact about Weatherford: no other North Suncoast player has to live up to similar expectations. Blame the success of his brothers before him, including former Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford, who holds Pasco County's career passing record with 7,657 yards and 79 touchdowns. In two seasons, Stevie has thrown for 1,902 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The difference this year is a new coach for just the second time in Land O'Lakes history. With a new offense and new coach Matt Kitchie, Stevie has plenty of hurdles to overcome.
5. C.J. Baker, Jr., Nature Coast
2008 stats: Completed 45 of 72 passes for 731 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions (nine games). Rushed 66 times for 441 yards.
Notable: The most striking change about Baker since he took over the varsity last season is his maturity. Talk to Baker and he sounds like a bona fide leader. He has come a long way when you consider the Sharks' tumultuous season in 2008. On the field, Baker is visibly bigger and more muscular. He'll lose top target Michael Fields, but most of the main pieces remain intact for him to have a stronger season as a junior. Baker has the arm and legs to improve on his numbers from last season.
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 421-3886.