As college football’s championship week inches closer, former players from the 941 area code have the potential to make an impact.
These Hometown Heroes are expected to play in three conference title games.
Here’s a look at each.
Clemson: None. Shaq Smith, who went by Rahshaun when he played at IMG Academy, isn’t listed on the depth chart, though the redshirt freshman linebacker did play and record an interception against The Citadel on Nov. 18.
Miami: The Hurricanes feature two starting offensive lineman on their latest depth chart that played high school football in either Manatee or Sarasota counties. Tyree St. Louis, the Canes’ right guard, played his last two high school seasons at IMG Academy, while center Tyler Gauthier played at Venice High.
Georgia: There’s only one player from the area occupying a spot on the depth chart heading into this week’s SEC Championship game. It’s Georgia backup tight end Isaac Nauta, who played at IMG Academy. Nauta has eight catches for 112 yards and a touchdown, while starting eight of 12 games he’s played in this season.
Central Florida: Lakewood Ranch High alum Sam Jackson is playing minutes for the Knights as a true freshman. The offensive lineman is listed as a backup right guard.
Other Hometown Heroes
The Manatee High contingent at Division II Ferris State kept their college football season going with an upset victory last weekend. The Bulldogs defeated their region’s No. 1 seed, Fort Hays State, 31-21, to advance to this weekend’s quarterfinal playoff game No. 7 seeded Harding. Among the Ferris State players that starred for the Hurricanes are defensive end Marquis Dawsey and wide receivers Jajuan Pollock and Marquel Hines. All three are seniors.
Vinny Connetta: On the top half of the Division II bracket is Assumption College in Massachusetts, where Connetta, a former Cardinal Mooney standout, is playing strong safety as a freshman. Assumption is playing this weekend’s quarterfinal game after delivering a 45-26 victory over Findlay in the second round last Saturday. Connetta had one tackle in the win.
Kelvin McKnight: The junior wide receiver saw his season end last weekend with Samford’s exit from the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs (formerly Division I-AA). Samford fell to Kennesaw State, 28-17, on the road. McKnight, a Manatee High alumnus, finished the year with a team-best 86 catches for 1,179 yards and 12 touchdowns. He occupied a spot on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays list following one performance this year. Last Saturday, McKnight had seven receptions for 49 yards.