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 quarterbacks.
The five best
1. Zack Wynn, Jr., Hudson. The most complete quarterback in the area, physically (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) and statistically. Because of Hudson's inexperience at receiver, we're not sure if Wynn will approach his 2007 passing numbers (1,698 yards, 20 TDs), but we see his ground yardage (316 in '07) increasing as the Cobras spread the field and give him space to run.
2. Stevie Weatherford, So., Land O'Lakes. As a freshman, Weatherford shared the job with Ely Payne. Otherwise, he might have thrown for 1,500 yards; as it was he threw for 687 with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. Top targets Jerome Harrison and Nick Castellano graduated, but the Gators always have weapons lurking. And with Weatherford's instincts he is bound to turn an average player into a star.
3. Tyler Guy, Jr., Zephyrhills. The Bulldogs' search for a bona fide rusher should give Guy plenty of opportunities to throw. This multisport star threw for 1,117 yards with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions in his first year as the starter. His 6-foot-7, 220-pound frame gives him the size of a prototype passer, but he can run pretty well when needed.
4. D.J. Clower, Jr., Pasco. The signal caller has really come on over the summer in a seven-on-seven league to give Pasco a true threat behind center. He has the talent to become a 1,000-yard passer after finishing his sophomore year throwing for 876 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions. And his ability to scramble puts him in this elite group.
5. Madison Burr, Jr., Gulf. Burr showed his resilience as a sophomore, passing for more than 800 yards and rushing for an additional 215 despite periodic pummelings. Now more seasoned and assertive, we see him making noticeable strides this year, especially if his supporting cast is as good as coach Jay Fulmer suggests.
Bound for a breakthrough in Hernando County
Springstead quarterback James Mahla might be a senior, but until this season his teams have lacked luster. Though the Eagles are not a pass-heavy team, he provides the leadership skills necessary to guide any kind of offense.
Bound for a breakthrough in Pasco County
Wiregrass Ranch sophomore James Tringali gave the Bulls a boost last season as a backup and now owns the starting job. He's a pinpoint passer, unafraid to make risky throws that pay off with big gains.
Top passing offenses
1. Pasco. The Pirates rely primarily on D.J. Clower, but Josh Johnson can come in and play the position because he is arguably better than most of the quarterbacks in the area. With plenty of talented targets, Pasco's version of the spread offense creates many opportunities for the Pirates to air it out.
2. Hudson. Wynn has some promising targets on the flank (sophomore Dylan Buono) and out of the backfield (senior JoJo Cimino, left). Problem is, none is terribly experienced.
3. Land O'Lakes. The Gators have been a passing team since Drew Weatherford came through the system at the beginning of this decade. And as the coaches have sifted through what works and what doesn't, Stevie has been on the sidelines since he was a young boy, studying and learning. That knowledge mixed with his ability and the Gators' talent makes Land O'Lakes a true passing threat.
4. Zephyrhills. The Bulldogs have never been afraid to throw, which has helped them overcome limited roster numbers over the years. Tyler Guy has a chance to really shine with the help of players such as Lance Hayes, right, so look for Zephyrhills to take some chances.
5. Ridgewood. The Rams may have a shortage of experience behind center, but there's certainly no dearth of candidates. We see Jimmy Mattos, left, taking the season's first snap, but coach Chris Taylor also can go to ambidextrous Hudson transfer Scott Kujak or promising freshman Bob Peck.
Joey Knight projects the area's top passer to be: Zack Wynn, but only if his surgically repaired knee — and the confidence of his young receivers — holds up.
Izzy Gould projects the area's top passer to be: Stevie Weatherford. This is the third Weatherford quarterback to come through Land O'Lakes, and he always was projected to be better than Drew (at Florida State) and Joe (at UCF). After watching his clutch performances as a freshman, now we know why.
Izzy Gould and Joey Knight, Times staff writers