Throughout the remainder of August, the Times will take a position-by-position look at the North Suncoast's top players and units. Today we look at the area's best defensive backs.
The five best
1. CB Mike Fields, Sr., Nature Coast. The Times' North Suncoast defensive player of the year led the state with 10 interceptions last season. He's quick and hard hitting and good in pursuit.
2. DB Josh Johnson, Sr., Pasco. Johnson has great speed and awareness, making him a serious threat to opposing passers. There's a good reason some top Division I programs are after him.
3. DB Aaron Duncan, Sr., Wesley Chapel. Armwood transfer registered two sacks against Plant in '07 playoffs. Also member of Wildcats' 4x400 relay team.
4. DB Lance Hayes, Sr., Zephyrhills. Second-team all-North Suncoast pick returned a Zack Wynn throw 60 yards for a touchdown against Hudson last year. He's one of those utility players coach Tom Fisher can use in various facets of the game.
5. DB Bryce Hollingshead, Sr., Springstead. Coach Bill Vonada raves about this big hitter, who is off to a good start after snagging an interception in the annual spring game. Top five units
1. Nature Coast. Led by Fields and his 10 picks, the Sharks are one of those teams you throw against only if running is not an option. They are physical, fast and furious.
2. Pasco. The Pirates have plenty of potent secondary players besides Johnson, including the speedy Jamaal Sampson, who should improve on his 26 tackles from a year ago. Pasco routinely has players who can shut down receivers. Remember, this was the only team to defeat pass-happy Land O'Lakes in the regular season.
3. Zephyrhills. Hayes and players such as Alex Sampson should help this unit shut down some of the tougher receiving groups in the area. The Bulldogs have a reputation for tough, talented play.
4. Wesley Chapel. The addition of Duncan should be a big boost to a secondary that has routinely been able to grab interceptions and break up passes. The group will need to in a district that includes Wharton quarterback Andrew Clifford.
5. Gulf. The Bucs surrendered a ton of points last year, but maturity and a new defensive coordinator (Jay Fulmer) suggest this unit will improve. Burr could be joined in the secondary by classmate David Ramirez and seniors Kyle Scianna and Trevor Williams.
Joey Knight predicts the area's top defensive back to be: Fields. His interception total will suffer this year because defenses will throw away from him. That means the mere presence of Fields will dictate what opponents do.
Izzy Gould predicts the area's top defensive back to be: Fields. After leading the state with 10 interceptions in 2007, Fields is playing with great confidence in '08. He might not match his totals from '07 but the simple fact he forces teams steer clear of his side makes him successful.
Bound for a breakthrough in Hernando County
CB Alvin Delaine, So., Hernando. Delaine is the first North Suncoast player we project to have a breakthrough year at two positions (we also picked him at running back). Yeah, we think he's that quick and talented.
Bound for a breakthrough in Pasco County
S Madison Burr, Jr., Gulf. Like ex-Bucs two-way star Alton Voss, Burr will play quarterback and safety. Coach Jay Fulmer insists Burr could evolve into Gulf's best defensive player.
Joey Knight and Izzy Gould, Times staff writers