Our second annual countdown of the top 100 football players in Tampa Bay — compiled after a spring and summer of evaluating talent, and a couple of brawls between staffers.
Class, school: Jr., Jesuit
Ht/wt: 5-10, 195
Breakdown: The Tigers’ top rusher last season (901 yards), Newman enters his junior year with more than 1,400 career rushing yards and 23 touchdowns. Sturdy enough to be an every-down back, Newman likely will be asked to share snaps with the likes of senior Ryan Black. When he does get a handoff, history indicates he’s good for more than 6 yards a carry.
Class, school: Sr., Alonso
Ht/wt: 5-8, 165
Breakdown: If the speedy and sure-handed Robinson were a few inches taller, he’d be one of the hottest wide receiver recruits in Tampa Bay. Even so, he’s clearly one of the best. He averaged 20 yards a catch last season (19 receptions, 380 yards, six touchdowns) and has developed nice chemistry with new quarterback Chris Oladokun this summer. Look out this fall.
Class, school: Sr., Tampa Bay Tech
Ht/wt: 5-10, 225
Breakdown: Russ, an FIU commitment, is the heart of what should be a very good Titan defense. Big and strong, Russ is an imposing and physical force in the middle of the field, but has the speed and athleticism to chase people down on the outside as well. Russ led Tech with 86 tackles in 2012, and we expect he’ll do the same this year.
Class, school: Sr., Admiral Farragut
Ht/wt: 6-2, 195
Breakdown: Maxwell was a key player in the Blue Jackets’ run to the 2011 Class 2A state final as both a running back and a defensive back. He stepped up again last season with 8 yards per carry and five touchdowns, three TDs as a receiver, and steady play on defense. And new coach Ryan Hearn plans to use Maxwell all over the field as well. His speed — he ran a 10.87 in the 100 meters at the state track meet — should boost the ground game.
Class, school: Jr., Robinson
Ht/wt: 5-5, 210
Breakdown: With a new offensive line in front of him, the Knights’ resident wrecking ball could have his sturdiness tested extensively. Overshadowed by backfield workhorse Martin Ruiz and multi-tooled QB Zain Gilmore last year, Duclos (38 carries, 221 yards in ‘12) and fellow TB Aivory Foster could provide the bulk of Robinson’s offense this fall.
Class, school: Jr., Gaither
Ht/wt: 5-9, 170
Breakdown: Ferguson was poised to step into Freedom’s lockdown cornerback role vacated by USF signee Nate Godwin, but then transferred to Gaither over the summer. He will team with senior Amani Oruwariye to form one of the area’s top cornerback tandems. Ferguson excelled during the spring and summer camp circuits, and was an all-tournament selection at the Battle of the Bay 7-on-7 tournament.
Class, school:Sr., Pinellas Park
Ht/wt: 6-1, 228
Breakdown: Harris, along with Kal-El Williams, will head up one of the area’s most underrated and unsung linebacking corps. Harris is deceptively fast at middle linebacker, with a knack for taking the right angles to get to the ballcarrier. Last year, he had 86 tackles and six sacks, and also sports a 3.9 GPA. Williams is still waiting on his first offer, but coach Kenny Crawford says that will definitely change this fall.
Class, school:Sr., Lakewood
Ht/wt: 5-9, 165
Breakdown: Fowler has long had game-breaking ability, and from various spots on the field. Last season at Northeast, Fowler carried the ball 58 times, caught 22 passes (three for touchdowns) and in the spring game showed off his speed returning the opening kickoff for a score. Back at Lakewood, Fowler, who has offers from Bowling Green and UCF, should fit right in amongst a strong group of receivers.
Class, school: Jr., Zephyrhills
Ht/wt: 6-0, 170
Breakdown: Pickett, the son of former Zephyrhills standout Damien Pickett and a relative of Green Bay Packer DL Ryan Pickett, had a solid sophomore season. Playing out of position at tight end, he caught four touchdowns and racked up a team-high 457 yards, while rushing for 86 more yards and a score. Defensively, he was a focal point in the secondary on a 6-4 team that narrowly missed the playoffs. Zephyrhills is shifting Pickett to wing back, where he’ll get more offensive touches
Class, school: So., St. Petersburg Catholic
Ht/wt: 5-10, 175
Breakdown: Jones was a workhorse at running back as a freshman, mainly because Ryan Green went down early with a shoulder injury. He carried the ball 116 times for 783 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Expect him to get plenty of carries this season. He gained 100 yards in the spring game against Indian Rocks Christian, mostly running behind SPC’s big offensive line.