PROGRESS VILLAGE – Sunday brought the beginning of the 2017 Big County Preps camp series with the Ignite Showcase at the Larry Sanders Sports Complex.
Class of 2017 students were ineligible to attend, which gave way for a new rush of student-athletes from all over our six counties and beyond. BCP welcomed 13 athletes from Sebring High in Highlands County and one from Sarasota County. The competitive factor was definitely in the air as players fought for their first chances to make Xecutives in June.
The schools around Progress Village were represented well, but none better than the players at East Bay High. The Indians sent over a dozen to represent them on Sunday. QB Tanner Morris showed off his arm, while S Jaylan Rodriguez (in his first action since a season-ending knee injury last year) and CB Trey Pryor looked strong in one-on-one competition.
Also looking good in DB-WR drills was a pair of Sickles defensive backs in Tim’arcus Simpson and Jontrey Hunter. Both had great awareness of jumping routes throughout the afternoon. Bryce Smith from Fivay showed off his aggressiveness, just like Jesuit’s Dane Belton. Belton made the game-clinching interception in the third round of the playoffs against Immokalee in November. Nobody was better than Mitchell CB Adam Rogers and Kathleen S Brendan Gant, who grabbed MVP awards.
He may have been smaller than the average wide receiver, but Hillsborough’s Matthew Alers was a fierce competitor throughout the event. Alers transferred from Wiregrass Ranch last spring, but didn’t get much playing time with the Terriers in 2016. That will change next season.
“It’s like everyday practice at Hillsborough High. High energy and high level competition so we can compete on the field at a higher level against our opponents,” Alers said. “I love the one-on-one and the competition that comes with it and the coaching at the event.”
Quarterbacks had a difficult time getting the ball out of their hands, accurately thanks to the low temps. The usuals stood out, Tate Whatley from Lakeland Christian made the best of the weather, still performing well, while Tampa Bay Tech’s Michael Penix Jr. took his second MVP award in three camps. Also standing out was Durant’s Carlton Potter, who threw for 1,412 yards in 2016, second in Class 7A-District 9, only behind Penix.
“My favorite part of the BCP camp series is definitely competing with the same kids I play against in the fall and the amount of game time speed reps,” Potter said. He took charge of the quarterback group early and often, which clearly reflected how he led Durant last season. “I just try to do whatever it takes to make everyone around me better, by any means. It’s going to be huge for us this spring getting young guys ready to fill those empty positions left by the seniors.”
It’s only January and things are starting to get interesting at Gaither. The Cowboys sent three quarterbacks to Ignite on Sunday, two of them starters. Gavin DenBoer, who started last season was at his best when he worked on getting out of the pocket on Sunday. Former Alonso quarterback Shaye Scott transferred to Gaither and also showed up to Ignite – hitting wide receivers all day with a strong and accurate arm. The third piece, Brody Price, makes things interesting throughout the spring. Stay tuned at Gaither under first-year Head Coach Kirk Karsen.
Defending 6A State Runner-Up Lake Gibson represented Polk County through an MVP award winner in OL Jarrett Whitehead, who could not be beaten in one-on-one drills throughout the morning and afternoon. QB Kevaris Thomas threw deep passes like they were nothing – his arm will take him and the Braves a long way in 2017 in his second year starting.
At the LB position, a couple of individuals stood out: Largo’s Logan Doublin was hard to beat by running backs in one-on-ones, which wasn’t surprising, seeming as how Doublin led the Packers with 128 tackles in 2016. Hernando LB Lawrence Sansone also did well in those one-on-ones with good patience in the first few steps. Matthew Wood from Gaither showed what a year of development will do, looking much better from this time last season, en route to an MVP award.
In addition to those, Jesuit LB Landon Moody had an excellent day. We noticed him at last June’s Summer E7 Training Camp, and he was limited to special teams in 2016. That may change this season. There’s a ILB spot available for Moody to take, and he’s ready for the opportunity.
“Last season was my first season as an inside linebacker as I switched from DE during spring. The transition was a challenge and I was really just getting my feet wet. This year, with the graduation of John Zielinski, there’s an opportunity at the ILB position. I have a great coaching staff that I believe will put the best player on the field and I’m ready to take their coaching and be that guy,” Moody said.
Pasco County was represented in a bunch of players from Wiregrass Ranch, including WR Daniel Biglow. He constantly made moves to find himself open. Devondric “D2” Miller from Zephyrhills did the same in tight coverage. Sarasota WR Deric DuBose also proved to be tough to cover. In the end, there was no one who could catch up (quite literally) to the speed and ability of Tampa Catholic WR Ahmarean Brown. We’ll talk about him a bit more in our MVP piece.
The race for the TE MVP turned into a two-horse race between Jesuit’s Larry Hodges and Plant City’s Austin Eldrige, and the former would win out. Eldridge is now in his second year of BCP camps, and he proved that he will continue to be a threat for the Raiders. However, Eldridge performed better as a DE last season. He compiled eight sacks on the year in his junior season.
“At Spring E7 I will be signed up as a DE, because that that is the position I feel like I’m best at. It’s also the position I would love to improve at, and what a lot of colleges like me at, and I can definitely see myself playing at DE in college.” Eldridge said. “Having previous experience at BCP not only let’s me know what to expect and the competition to expect at camps, but it also makes me a better ball player, it helps me perfect my craft.”
Running backs were dominated by Sebring RB Roger Yarde, who won an MVP award – closer to the Bay, Malik Melvin from Wesley Chapel had a good afternoon in addition to Jaquavious Johnson from Tampa Bay Tech. Matthew Pittman started his work to replace Malik Davis at Jesuit on Sunday, and showed off it in one-on-ones. More of a bruising running back through his 5’10”, 216 lbs. frame, he had the ability to make some linebackers miss.
Finally, the defensive line group had strength in Carrollwood Day DT Pierre Alsint, who was only stopped by Whitehead at the very end of the day. Dominic Marino of Mitchell won the MVP award, while Andrew Patterson from Hillsborough had a productive day as well.
Xecutive selections will be made soon, keep it locked on our Twitter page for updates. The next Xecuitves qualifier will be the Spring E7 Training Camp in Lakeland at Southeastern University in early April. Registration will open soon.