Advertisement
  1. Sports

Role reversals for Clearwater's Jarius Williams and Adarius Lemons

Running back Jarius Williams is making the most of his sudden starting opportunity and is closing in on a 1,000-yard season.
Published Nov. 18, 2016

CLEARWATER — Jarius Williams spent his days in the shadow of Clearwater High's highly touted running back.

Adarius Lemons got the headlines. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder was powerful and fast, a four-star recruit on the wish list of nearly every major college program.

Williams, a 6-foot, 175-pound junior, was the understudy, always wondering what it would be like to switch places.

Two months ago, Williams got his chance.

Williams was thrust into a starting role after Lemons was reassigned to Pinellas Secondary for the rest of the semester after getting caught with marijuana a second time.

"It was a surprise to be starting, but things happen," Williams said. "It was just next man up, and I had to take advantage of my opportunity."

There was pressure. Tons of it. Williams was suddenly entrusted with keeping the Tornadoes (11-0), a favorite to make a deep postseason run, afloat.

Williams has thrived as a starter, rushing for a team-high 809 yards and nine touchdowns. He did not just salvage the running game. Williams' emergence helped Clearwater go undefeated in the regular season for the first time since 1970 and win a playoff game last week for the fourth time in program history.

"I'm certainly not surprised by his success," Clearwater coach Don Mesick said. "I've seen him every day in practice so I knew he was a good running back."

When Williams arrived at Clearwater two years ago, he was too talented to keep off the field or be relegated to junior varsity. He was a starting defensive back as a freshman. Last season, Williams remained a starter in the secondary and was the third-string running back.

The plan this year was for Williams to be the primary backup to Lemons and take over as the starter in 2017. Everything changed in September when Lemons was reassigned.

Lemons had pressure of his own. He spent the summer contemplating his college decision. He had committed to North Carolina before switching allegiances to Florida.

For two months, Lemons wavered on his decision. Then he ran into trouble.

There was the marijuana possessions as well as a low score on the ACT (15) that he needed to raise to even qualify to play at a Division I-A program.

In October, amid speculation from recruiting analysts and on message boards that the Gators were looking for a backup plan at running back, Florida offered Jesuit's Malik Davis. The senior, who broke Hillsborough County's all-time rushing mark this season, quickly committed while Lemons was left wondering if he was still in the Gators' plans.

"The Florida coaches said they were concerned about the test score but they still wanted me and were not going to pull my offer," he said.

Mesick confirmed the Gators "would like to have him, but there was concerns with everything that happened."

Still, Lemons re-opened his recruiting.

"I needed to get myself right and I didn't want to be a distraction for the team before I even got there," he said. "There was so much with everything, especially in getting the test score. I felt it was the right decision at the time."

Lemons is now getting tutored twice a week. He takes the ACT again on Dec. 10. He continues to work out, and Mesick said he will be able to attend Clearwater when the next semester starts in January.

"It was hard to be away from the team," Lemons said. "I can't attend the games, but I still try to keep track of them. I heard Jarius is doing really well at running back."

Williams is not the same runner. He is not as fast as Lemons nor a strong. But Williams is patient, has shifty feet and can break off long runs just like Lemons did a year ago.

"Jarius is a much smoother runner," Mesick said. "He has great vision, too. We're just different on offense. We run some things that Jarius is really good at. We're in a great place on offense with Jarius.

"We didn't lose anything. It was just a change that turned out to be a positive for us."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Lightning's Carter Verhaeghe (54) works the puck against the Hurricanes' Teuvo Teravainen (86) of Finland, during the first period of a preseason game, in Raleigh, N.C,, last week. KARL B DEBLAKER  |  AP
    The forward, who has two in a preseason loss to the Predators, survives Sunday’s round of cuts.
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) scores against the New York Giants during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken) JASON BEHNKEN                         |  AP
    Evans nets his first 100-yard receiving day of the season before halftime, along with three touchdowns in a performance that feels headed toward the record books.
  3. Rays relief pitcher Andrew Kittredge (36) sits in the dugout during Tampa Bay's 7-4 loss to Boston Sunday, September 22, 2019, in St. Petersburg. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Red Sox 7, Rays 4: After back-to-back dramatic comebacks, Tampa Bay’s only excitement Sunday comes on Brendan McKay’s first major-league home run.
  4. Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) is out stealing second on a call review during the second inning while playing the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, September 22, 2019, in St. Petersburg. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Martin Fennelly: Takeaways from the Rays’ 7-4 loss Sunday to Boston.
  5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) catches a 20-yard touchdown reception against the New York Giants during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio) MARK LOMOGLIO  |  AP
    Bucs 31, Giants 25: Matt Gay’s fourth field goal and Shaq Barrett’s relentless pass rush slows Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones’ furious comeback to start the second half.
  6. The Tampa Bay Rays face the Red Sox in Game 3 of the series at Tropicana Field. The Red Sox defeated the Rays 7-4.
  7. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 1-1 as they face the New York Giants for the second home game of the regular season.
  8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Scotty Miller (10) warms up before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium on August 23, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Miller with give the Bucs six active receivers against a New York pass defense that ranks 30th in the league.
  9. Brandon Lowe was back in the Rays lineup  Sunday for the first time since his July 2 injury. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Rays-Red Sox: All-Star infielder Brandon Lowe is playing for the first time since July 2.
  10. Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) reaches to recover his fumble in front of Central Florida linebacker Tatum Bethune (15) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Pittsburgh. Pitt recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) KEITH SRAKOCIC  |  AP
    The Florida Gators stayed steady after trouncing Tennessee, which is very bad at playing football.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement