Amongst a very talented roster, here are three talented Venice players to watch for 2021.
By Brian Smith @fbscout_florida
Venice won state championships in 2000 and 2017, the Indians appear to be primed for another playoff run come the fall of 2021. With running back Damarion Escort, quarterback Ryan Browne, and cornerback Elliot Washington II helping to lead the way, opposing teams will certainly be challenged.
Damarion Escort, RB, 6-2, 200-pounds – 2022
Escort is the definition of a one-cut-and-go running back. He does his best work between the tackles, and he does so with physicality. Primed to make defenders miss with a last second cut that leaves tacklers behind, Escort will also grind for extra yardage after contact.
With make-you-miss ability and power were the primary reasons he accounted for 508 yards and six touchdowns during the 2020 season. Now that Escort will be a senior, Venice will likely rely on him even more.
Escort carried the football 95 times last fall. That total will likely increase for Escort during his senior season, and he should eclipse 150 carries if the Indians make a playoff run. Look for Escort’s rushing attempts and yards to increase, as well as be more of a threat in the passing game. For Venice to provide an explosive and balanced offense, Escort will need to be even more productive this next season. He’s certainly capable.
Ryan Browne, QB, 6-5, 207-pounds, – 2022
After 2020 Venice starting quarterback Colin Blazek threw for 2,771 yards and 29 touchdowns, one would believe that there would be a significant quarterback dropoff. With Browne taking over for Blazek, the Indians will be in good shape. Browne had the best score at the Orlando Elite 11 camp with a 94.88 score (over 10 points higher than the second place quarterback).
During his junior season, Browne displayed touch for deep passes, protected the football well in the pocket, moved his feet to avoid rushers and create more time to pass the football, and he did a nice job of throwing in rhythm.
Browne threw for 946 yards and eight touchdowns for Sarasota Riverview last fall. Now the quarterback for Venice, Browne will still have plenty of weapons and another year of experience reading defenses and honing his passing skills. He’s a good athlete as well.
Browne ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns in 2020. He’s a capable read-option quarterback and will create plays with his legs when provided an opportunity. Heading into the 2021 season, Browne is one of Florida’s most intriguing quarterbacks.
Elliot Washington, DB, 6-0, 190-pounds – 2023
Capable of playing off coverage and driving on the football to create a pass break up, or running down an opposing player with his verified 4.47 speed, Washington continues a recent streak of top-notch defensive backs playing for the Indians. The next task for Washingon, and the Venice coaching staff, will be to figure out the best ways to maximize his skillset during his senior campaign.
Will Washington improve upon his 31 total tackles and one interception from the 2020 season? That’s almost assured. More importantly, will Venice move Washington around to make him a true playmaker? Perhaps allow him to follow the opposing team’s best wide receiver regardless of where he lines up? There are many different ways to utilize a top defensive back.
Many high school teams will place a top-notch cornerback at free safety so that opposing quarterbacks cannot just throw to the opposite side of the field as it would be if that cornerback lined up at his traditional cornerback position. Perhaps Venice will utilize Washington at free safety at least part of the time. He is also a physical player.
It would be interesting to see Washington line up and play bump-and-run coverage. This aggressive style of defense can help to set a tone for an entire game when a cornerback overmatches an opposing team’s best wide receiver during the early portion of a contest.
Washington is also a weapon on special teams and provides a muscular 190-pound frame. He could play in the box against run-heavy formations and/or be utilized as a blitzer as a hybrid linebacker. Regardless of how Venice utilizes Washington, he’s a unique player and one opponents will need to account for during each snap of the football.
Overall, Venice will once again be one of the Gulf Coast’s best high school football teams. Amongst a talented roster, Escort, Browne and Washington will help lead the Indians into the 2021 season, and most likely another playoff run.