The season is barely over, but it’s time to start checking out who punched the clock week-in/week-out this year for their respective squads. Much like the list of seniors that cannot be replaced overnight–this one is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of players that took their games to the next level. Below are six guys that will get the debate started on leading the pack for biggest improvements on their teams’ from the pervious seasons. Keep your eyes peeled for more players as the offseason progresses, but for now–here’s some to get the party started!
Mayson Atkinson – Jesuit
2014: 75 tackles–six for loss–QB hurry–INT–4 PD’s–2 fumble recoveries
2015: 92 tackles–14 for loss–QB hurry–5 INT’s–9 PD’s–fumble recovery–3 caused fumbles–2 blocked punts
The senior defensive back took his game to another level for the Tigers helping to establish a no-fly zone in the Jesuit secondary this season. Atkinson was everywhere on defense at times and the numbers bear witness to that. The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder will make somebody very happy on the collegiate level next season with that kind of aggressiveness.
Jayquese Dantley – Steinbrenner
2014: 636 yards rushing, 7 touchdowns
2015: 1,269 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns
The senior running back stands at 5-foot-11, 165-pounds but ran three times his size for the Warriors in a historic season team-wise. As you can see, Dantley basically doubled his output from 2014 and Steinbrenner needed that kind of workhorse mentality–especially at the beginning of the season when they were finding their way on offense.
Devon Dupuis – Weeki Wachee
2014: 38 tackles
2015: 153 tackles–7 for loss–5 QB hurries–pass deflection–2 caused fumbles–blocked field goal
The Hornets have some explosive weapons on offense in the form Shawn O’Gorman and Alec Cromie, but Dupuis deserves some love for the stark improvements he made in his defensive contributions for Weeki. Dupuis–a senior ILB–quadrupled his tackles output from last season plus added all kinds of other key statistical contributions from his linebacker position for the Hornets.
Austin Sessums – Tampa Catholic
2014: 933 yards passing–46% completion percentage–11TD’s-5INT’s
2015: 2,777 yards passing–67% completion percentage–32TD’s-8INT’s
Sessums made a stop at Wiregrass during the spring after coming over from Wesley Chapel last season–then finally settled into a position at Tampa Catholic–and boy did he settle nicely. Of course, it’s “easy” when you’ve got some of the best talent in the nation–not just the state–at your disposal–but it’s INFINITELY easier said-than-done to get the ball to that talent–with efficiency–and supreme effectiveness. Sessums did just that for the Crusaders and will have his senior year to add to those impressive numbers from his junior year.
De’Vonta Smith – Brooksville Central
2014: 833 yards rushing–5TD’s–11 tackles–1,123 total yards
2015: 2,193 yards rushing–19TD’s–95 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 INT’s, 10 PD’s, 2 caused, blocked FG–2,400 total yards
The Bears went through some lessons in life that were much bigger than football this season and many times this fall, the Friday Night lights were the distraction from the events that took place off the field, but one bright spot was Smith’s insane numbers from his running back and cornerback position. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior showed he’s one of the North Suncoast’ most-exciting players returning for next season.
Kee Whetzel – Countryside
2014: 6 receptions, 102 yards, touchdown–443 total yards
2015: 58 receptions, 1,078 yards, 12 touchdowns–1,166 total yards
The Cougars have many guys that will be on college rosters this time next season, but one of the guys that was one of the biggest standouts in terms of all-around improvement was Whetzel. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder is a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball, but this past season–Countryside used him at the wideout position–and with a frame like that–why not? As you can see, his numbers from that position were exponentially increased–and one of the main reasons the Cougars were back in the playoffs this season.