The date is July 8, which means there’s absolutely nothing going on in the world of high school sports.
However, we’re officially less than five weeks away from the start of the high school football season here in the coastal plains. So we’re back to our July coverage of high school football storylines to feed your football appetite until August 11 arrives for the GISA opening weekend.
Last week we went over ten key games for the ten area teams we’ll cover here at the Statesboro Herald, and this week we’re wasting no time taking a deep dive into the best of the best in area personnel.
Here in Bulloch County and beyond we have a bevy of talent that will make for nightmarish matchups on both sides of the ball. We tried to make sure every county team had at least one player on the top 25, but obviously some of the better teams will have more representation than others.
The goal here was to find the best players from last year and try to look ahead at who will project to be the best this season with the teams they have returning around them. There will for sure be a handful of players not on this list who will have big impacts in the 2017 season, but for now we’re just trying to build the hype machine to get us through a slow July.
So without further ado, here’s the top 25 players from the coastal plains area coming into the 2017 football season:
25. Aaron Mikell
OG/DT- SE Bulloch
Mikell returns as the senior leader on an offensive line which paved the way to Chase Walker’s massive season on the ground and provides depth on the defensive front as well.
24. Von Hagan
DB/WR - Claxton
Hagan played sparingly as a sophomore but had a breakout performance in the Tigers spring game against Long County. He’ll be a havoc machine on defense and a go-to option in the passing game.
23. Kashawn Robinson
RB/DE - Screven County
Robinson provides strong depth to the Screven backfield but makes his name on the Gamecock defense. The senior had 95 tackles, ten TFL and 2.5 sacks playing defensive end in 2016.
22. Wright Rockett
WR - Statesboro
Even in what was an anemic offensive season for Statesboro in 2016, Rockett proved to be a reliable option in the passing game. 14 Rockett’s 30 catches in 2016 went for a first down.
21. Davis Wiggins
QB - Statesboro
Even as he was injured for most of 2016, with the new RPO offense Statesboro’s installed should help Wiggins’ production skyrocket from where it was when he did play as a junior.
20. Caleb Dowden
K/P - Statesboro
Laugh and scoff all you want, Dowden was one of the most dangerous weapons any team had in the coastal plains. On top of kicking a SE Georgia record 58-yard field goal, 81 percent of his kickoffs/punts forced opponents inside the 20-yardline.
19. Jontrell Wells
WR/RB - SE Bulloch
Even with teammate Chase Walker taking up most of the glory on offense, Wells was still a good weapon to have on both sides of the ball for the Yellow Jackets. He scored six total touchdowns while averaging 8.6 yards a touch in 2016.
18. Craig Ware
RB/LB - Portal
Quarterback injuries wrecked any kind of offensive continuity Portal had in 2016, but it didn’t stop Ware from leading the team in rushing and scoring. He was also the only player in Bulloch County to score an offensive and defensive touchdown in the same game in 2016.
17. Don Aaron
QB - Bulloch Academy
Aaron had his ups and downs as a sophomore, especially once his backfield took major injury hits near the end of the season. Even still, he averaged 5.5 yards a touch en route to reaching the playoffs.
16. Jeffrey Young
QB - Pinewood
Young is going to have his work cut out for him this season with only Garlon Rogers returning to his backfield, but as a junior in 2016 Young scored 15 total TD’s while averaging 5.8 yards per touch
15. Seth Conner
OL/DL Bulloch Academy
Conner is a special kind of athlete to have at the GISA level who can play proficiently on the offensive line and defensive front seven. As a junior in 2016, he had 85 tackles and another two for loss.
14. Trenton Harley
C - Jenkins County
Jenkins County found themselves running the ball quite often in 2016 and it was all spurred by the direction and blocking ability of Harley who at six-foot-two, 275 pounds is a rock in the center of the offensive line.
13. Peyton Mercer
LB - ECI
Mercer’s production was lost in the shuffle of numerous good defenders for ECI in 2016, but this year the linebacking corps will belong to him. Mercer brings back 85 tackles and another six for loss from last season.
12. Kim Hunter
DB/RB - Screven County
Hunter is a third of the three-headed monster in the Screven County backfield. Hunter rushed for 845 yards at 8.2 yards a carry while adding three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and 4.5 TFL as a defensive back.
11. Chris Hill
LB - Statesboro
When he was healthy in 2016, Hill was a specimen as a linebacker who delivers hits like Mike Tyson uppercuts. In the seven games he played last season he accounted for 15 percent of Statesboro’s total tackles.
10. Tupac Lanier
RB - Statesboro
Last season was unique for Lanier in that he went from tailback to quarterback and back to tailback in the course of a tumultuous 0-10 season. Even though the mess he scored nine total TDs while averaging 5.5 yards a carry.
9. Bobby McNear
RB - ECI
There may not be a more versatile weapon in the coastal plains than McNear. As both a running back and receiver he averaged 13.9 yards a touch while scoring 17 total touchdowns in his junior season in 2016.
8. Kendrick Cox
DE - Screven County
Cox exploded onto the scene last season as an elite edge defender and can make the case to be one of the best in class 2A. In 2016 he led Screven with 11 sacks and 15 TFL while contributing 98 total tackles as a junior.
7. Shamel Johnson
RB/CB - Metter
Even as 2016 was disappointing for Metter, they could still hang their hat on the do-it-all weapon Johnson. He was a preseason All-State selection in 2016 and should continue to be a big threat on offense in 2017.
6. Chase Walker
FB - SE Bulloch
The best player in Bulloch County will look to make himself an all-region selection for the fourth year in a row in 2017. Walker scored 22 TDs while averaging 6.7 yards a carry as a junior.
5. Armani Bunbury
QB - Screven County
Poised, polished and a high football IQ — Bunbury is the prototypicalsignal caller to run Screven’s I-option offense. He passed for 20 touchdowns while rushing for another ten as a junior in 2016.
4. Dazuhn Steele
WR - ECI
Even without star QB Rhett Gay throwing him the ball, Steele should still be one of the best passing targets in class 1A. Steele averaged 23.6 yards a catch while grabbing eight TD’s as a junior in 2016.
3. Curtis Fann Jr.
DE - ECI
As only a sophomore in 2016 Fann Jr. was an absolute terror to opposing offenses. He registered 23 TFL and another seven sacks last season and is now gathering D-1 offers from schools like Georgia, Alabama and Clemson.
2. Tyquan Johnson
WR - Screven County
Combine elite hands with state-qualifying sprinter speed and high jump leaping ability — that’s the nightmarish concoction Johnson is for the Screven passing game. 13 of his 32 catches went for TD’s while averaging 25.2 yards a catch.
1. CJ Wright
FB/DT - Screven County
Simply put, Wright is a freak in terms of high school football. He’s the size of a D-1 defensive tackle and runs like an enraged hippopotamus. Wright scored 21 TD’s as a fullback while contributing 10.5 TFL on defense.