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 receivers.
The five best
1. Chaise Dunn, Jr., Pasco: With Josh Johnson lining up at a plethora of spots, we wouldn't be shocked if Dunn finished the season as the Pirates' receptions leader. A lanky target at 6-2, he wowed us at Pasco's spring game. Defenses probably won't be able to double-team him for fear of getting burned by someone else.
2. Josh Johnson, Sr., Pasco: How many times do we need to say it? Johnson is the definition of utility player from running back to quarterback to receiver to centerfield on the baseball team. He has great hands and will be a primary target for quarterback D.J. Clower.
3. Dominic Roberson, Sr., Springstead: Roberson led Springstead with 31 catches for nearly 400 yards last season. We see him challenging those totals in 2008 as coach Bill Vonada diversifies his offense.
4. Clay Kessler, Sr., Hernando: In addition to running for nearly 800 yards at Hernando Christian last year, Kessler caught 32 passes for 343 yards and three touchdowns. We know what you're thinking: That was Hernando Christian, not Class 3A football. But at 6-3, 215 pounds, we believe Kessler can post similar numbers in John Palmer's fling-T offense.
5. Mike Fields, Sr., Nature Coast:
He was the Times' North Suncoast defensive player of the year last year, but did you know he had 14 receptions for 398 yards (28.4 yards per catch)? Coach Jamie Joyner didn't realize the kind of weapon he had in Fields and plans to use him more on offense.
Bound for a breakthrough in Hernando County
Ben Noury, Sr., Springstead: Eagles coach Bill Vonada won't specify what Noury's role will be, but expect him to contribute as a receiver, running back and safety. His work ethic and raw talent make him a threat downfield on any play, someone quarterback James Mahla will rely on heavily.
Bound for a breakthrough in Pasco County
Dylan Buono, So., Hudson: If the promise he flashed in the Cobras' spring game (four catches, 52 yards) is any sign, Buono shapes up as Zack Wynn's primary target on the flank. A running back on a good Hudson Middle School team, Buono possesses speed, toughness and soft hands. All he lacks is experience.
Top five units
1. Pasco. The Pirates are one of the few local teams to stick with the spread offense, and they have the athletes to do it. Dunn and Johnson are the go-to guys, but don't count out No. 3 sophomore receiver Hakeeme Ishmar, who had some dazzling nights during the summer's seven-on-seven league.
2. Hudson. If the Cobras are to contend for their third playoff berth in four seasons, their young receivers must grow up in a hurry. We believe they will. Diminutive senior tailback JoJo Cimino should emerge as a viable target for Wynn out of the backfield.
3. Land O'Lakes. Perhaps you remember the stunning fourth-quarter drive that vaulted Land O'Lakes to a 14-9 come-from-behind victory last season. The final touchdown was from Stevie Weatherford to Alex Robinson, inset, who made the 35-yard catch for the win.
4. Springstead. With a veteran quarterback (Mahla) and proven targets such as Roberson and Noury, the Eagles' option-oriented look should possess an added dimension. In their spring game, a 27-6 rout of Seminole Osceola, Mahla was 13-for-17 for 115 yards.
5. Zephyrhills. Lance Hayes and Al Sampson should see plenty of passes from Bulldogs junior quarterback Tyler Guy, inset. Zephyrhills has a reputation of producing quick, talented skill players so look for the Bulldogs to be one of the stronger receiving groups.
Joey Knight predicts the area's top receiver to be: Kessler, a bona fide Division I prospect in our eyes, which have seen him fill out a Leopards uniform quite impressively.
Izzy Gould predicts the area's top receiver to be: Dunn, with Clower throwing.