Trevon Walters, sr., Manatee
Never miss a local story.
The scoop: The Alabama transplant made a huge splash last season in Bradenton, rushing for 1,119 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Hurricanes. Walters also had 29 catches for four touchdowns out of the backfield. Making Walters' numbers even more impressive is he never totaled more than 15 carries in a game, a scenario likely to change this season now that quarterback Cord Sandberg has graduated. Elusive, fast and durable, Walters has received eight scholarship offers, according to Rivals, including from schools such as USF, Marshall and Missouri.
Jake Stickler, sr., Manatee
The scoop: It's safe to say Stickler was born to play offensive line for the Hurricanes: His father, Sean, and Sean's twin brother, Eric, were three-year starters on the line for the 1984-86 Canes and won a state title in '85. Sean and Eric's younger brother, Todd, also spent two years starting on Manatee's offensive line before graduating in 1996. Now it's Jake's turn, and he has carried the torch proudly, having already commmitted to Georgia Tech as he heads into his third season on the varsity. Jake was a member of Manatee's 2011 state title team and, similar to the rest of the Canes line, blends athleticism with loads of size. Marshall, UConn, USF, Florida International, Baylor, N.C. State and Missouri also made offers.
Michael Galati, sr., Manatee
The scoop: Galati is a familiar name in Manatee football, and Michael has been solid contiuing the tradition. Galati recently committed to USF, choosing the Bulls -- and their head coach, Willie Taggart, a former star quarterback at Manatee -- over Florida International and Presbyterian. Galati is athletic and experienced, the perfect match for a Manatee team that likes to play fast and put the ball in different sets of hands. Galati and fellow Division I commit Jake Stickler are two big reasons Manatee's offensive line is hands down the area's best.
Demarcus Christmas, sr., Manatee
The scoop: The lone holdover from a defensive line that was considered one of the nation's best, the quiet Christmas brings experience, leadership and toughness to Manatee's defense. A Florida State commit, Christmas finished with 70 tackles last season, including 20 for loss, while totaling nine sacks and 12 quarterback hurries. The Canes are banking on such play this season from Christmas, a member of the 2011 state championship team now entering his third season, and second full season, as a starter.
Brodrick Yancy, sr., Manatee
The scoop: While other guys got much of the credit last year, all Yancy did was play well enough to earn the attention of the coaches at Temple, and the Canes receiver committed there prior to the summer. Yancy pulled in 30 catches for 415 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for 142 yards and three toucdowns, last season. The versatile Yancy also is Manatee's top backup at quarterback.
Josh Hicks, sr., Palmetto
The scoop: Hicks showed his speed and strength as a sophomore when he rushed for 1,302 yards. But he showed versatility and selflessness last season when he came back from an early-season ankle injury and volunteered to play in the defensive backfield for a Tigers defense lacking experience. Strong, fast and unafraid of contact, Hicks, a Rutgers commit, is still the Tigers' top running back, and they will need him to carry the load early as the new-look offensive line and passing game gel.
Wyatt McLeod, sr., Lakewood Ranch
The scoop: The versatile McLeod is listed as a tight end, but he did a bit of everything last year for the the Mustangs. He played H back, running back, fullback, wide receiver and even quarterback. He wound up running for 246 yards, snaring 12 catches and scoring five touchdowns, and he recently committed to Miami (Ohio), though more Division I offers are sure to pour in for a guy who seems to give Lakewood Ranch a spark wherever he lines up.
Kadarrius Carley, sr., Southeast
The scoop: Having lost their two top receivers (Antonio Ray and Jacob Sannon) to graduation and breaking in a new quarterback, the Seminoles will be leaning on Carley, a Division I-type talent who pulled in 10 catches for 156 yards last season for the Class 5A-District 10 champions. A big year could pay dividends for Southeast, and Carley, as well, who still has time to turn the heads of college coaches.
Courtney Allen, sr., Southeast
The scoop: The dean of area running backs, Allen is fresh off a huge year that included 1,334 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns and an average of 6 yards per carry. Set to enter his fourth year on the varsity, Allen will be looked upon once again to help carry Southeast's offense as he looks for another 1,000-yard campaign
Dyron Williams, jr., Southeast
The scoop: Williams is making quite a name for himself after an impressive sophomore year, when he tallied 51 tackles, including 28 solo, a pair of sacks, a blocked punt and a safety. Another season like that one and Williams could find himself on a number of Division I radars as the spring approaches.
Marcus Balliette, sr., Braden River
The scoop: The Pirates may have struggled to a 1-9 mark last year, but Balliette was a highlight. The team's leading tackler and a two-time All-Area honorable mention and second-team pick, Balliette is the leader of the Pirates' defense and perhaps Braden River's best all-around player. Athletic and versatile, Balliette will be a big key this year as the Pirates try to turn things around.