Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sickles' Black zeroes in on QBs, greatness

Sickles LB Josh Black effortlessly blends speed and strength while earning praise from coaches and teammates.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Sickles LB Josh Black effortlessly blends speed and strength while earning praise from coaches and teammates.

TAMPA

Sickles pass rusher Josh Black was a jittery sophomore when he started his reign of terror against Hillsborough County quarterbacks.

In the 2011 preseason game against Gaither — his first varsity game — Black was lined up at the Gryphons' outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid. He exploded at the snap, beat his blocker and sacked the Cowboys' Division I passer.

"I could get used to this," Black thought.

He has.

Black has led the Gryphons in sacks (16) and quarterback hurries (40) the past two seasons. He's third in Tampa Bay with nine sacks and will be pivotal tonight when the Gryphons (5-0) try to disrupt Plant's Colby Brown, the county's leading passer.

"He can't be blocked," Sickles coach Brian Turner said.

Black's success comes from his blend of strength, size, speed and instincts.

He benches more than 300 pounds and squats more than 400. In practice, he gets to push himself against a loaded offensive line, led by 285-pound Missouri commit Zach Hudson. During games, he has learned how to bulldoze opponents with his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame.

"I was always bigger than other kids, just about," Black said. "And I worked hard — I always worked hard. I believed that I could be great one day."

But what impresses Turner is Black's ability to fly to the ball at that size.

Black is quick enough to line up at linebacker and powerful enough to play tackle so Sickles can move him around to exploit mismatches. And Black's instincts are good enough — and his reaction time is quick enough — to blow up plays anywhere.

"Sometimes he's making plays doing the wrong thing," Turner said. "He just does it based on, I think this is gonna happen."

That's the way Black has always been.

Teammate Deven Santana remembers watching Black overpower smaller linemen to get into the backfield when they first played together as 10-year-olds.

"He was always getting after the ball, swarming to the ball," Santana said. "It's just how we grew up."

The two pass rushers form the backbone of one of Tampa Bay's best defenses.

Through five games, Sickles has totaled 25 sacks and 14 takeaways. Only two county teams — Armwood and Plant City — have allowed fewer points than the Gryphons (51).

Santana, a 6-3, 205-pound senior, has 41 tackles and three sacks at defensive end. A secondary with six interceptions has locked down its receivers, giving Black and the pass rushers time to close in.

But the undisputed star is Black. The three-star linebacker prospect holds offers from USF, Arizona, Marshall, among others, and draws gushing reviews from his coaches.

Turner, a game-film junkie, said he hasn't seen a better defensive player in the county this year. Turner goes so far as to compare Black with James Wilder Jr., the Florida State running back who tallied 145 tackles and 15 sacks as a sophomore linebacker at Chamberlain under Turner.

"He's the same kind of player that James Wilder is," Turner said. "He's as good on defense as James was."

Matt Baker can be reached at mbaker@tampabay.com or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.

Sickles' Black zeroes in on QBs, greatness 10/10/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 10, 2013 10:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Alex Faedo, Florida advance to face LSU in College World Series finals

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — Alex Faedo pitched three-hit ball for 71/3 innings in a second straight strong performance against TCU, and Florida moved to the College World Series finals with a 3-0 win Saturday night.

    Florida’s Austin Langworthy scores on a single by Mike Rivera in the second inning during a 3-0 victory over TCU.
  2. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  3. Rays journal: Jumbo Diaz falters after getting within a strike of ending rally

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday's game got away starting with a leadoff walk in the seventh inning by Rays LHP Jose Alvarado, who was brought in exclusively to face Baltimore's lefty-swinging Seth Smith.

    Rays reliever Jumbo Diaz wipes his face as he walks off the mound after the Orioles score four during the seventh inning to give them a 7-3 lead. Diaz was one strike away from working out of the jam before he allowed a two-run double and a two-run homer on back-to-back pitches.
  4. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  5. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    It was refreshing to see RHP Jacob Faria take the blame after the loss even though he gave the Rays a chance to win. Too often young pitchers are encouraged by what they did and not necessarily the outcome, but Faria, making just his fourth big-league start, came to the Trop to win, didn't, and pointed the finger …