Monday, August 04, 2008

PrepNation 101 Preseason FB Countdown: No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas

5. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Last season’s record: 14-1, Class 5A champion
Coach: George Smith
Key players: QB Ryan Becker (6-0, 185, Sr.), WR Duron Carter (6-1, 175, Sr.), WR Dwayne Difton (6-0, 180, Sr.), TE Gabe Holmes (6-5, 215, Sr.), LB Conor O’Neill (6-1, 195, Sr.), OT Ryan Linder (6-4, 270, Jr.), RB Giovanni Bernard (5-9, 190, Jr.), RB James White (5-10, 175, Jr.), DT Bill Nesselt (6-3, 250, Sr.), DT Jean Luc Charles (6-0, 240, Sr.), DB Brian Robinson (6-0, 180, Jr.), RB Beau Bucci (5-9, 175, Sr.), DB Dezman Southward (6-1, 180, Sr.), DB/WR Ronnie Kennedy (5-10, 160, Sr.), DB Cody Riggs (5-10, 160, Jr.)
Biggest strength: Receivers, QB, talent level
Question mark: Inexperience at OL and DL
Outlook: Last year the Raiders played in the state finals for the 11th time in 17 seasons, an incredible feat for a program in any state – but even more so in Florida. A 35-20 win over Kissimmee Osceola gave them their fourth state championship win after three straight championship game losses. Nine Division I scholarship winners graduated, and only six full-time starters return. But the number of talented football players waiting to fill open positions is exceptionally high. At least 15 seniors and juniors are Division I prospects including a trio of senior receivers. Their position coach is former NFL great Cris Carter. His son, Duron, will follow in pop’s footsteps and play next year at Ohio State. Duron is likely to improve on his junior numbers of 22 receptions for 361 yards and eight touchdowns. The same can be said for Difton, who might be the faster of the two players. Tight end Holmes might have the most upside of the group because of his athletic ability and huge frame. The quarterback position is rock solid with Becker returning. He completed 106 of 183 passes (58 percent) for 1,714 yards with 26 touchdowns and only four interceptions. In the Raiders’ 35-20 state final win over Osceola (Kissimmee), Becker took home the game MVP award. Two of the top returning running backs are juniors. Bernard has the most experience, with 698 rushing yards and seven touchdowns last season. White, who has 4.4-type speed, averaged 8 yards per carry. The only returning starter on the offensive line is Linder, a sure-fire Division I prospect next year. O’Neill is the leader on defense and exceptional all-around football player. As a junior, he had 16 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Nesselt recorded seven tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. In the secondary, Robinson played well as a sophomore making 35 solo tackles and intercepting one pass. Southward, a standout basketball player, might be the team's best all-around athlete. Riggs, son of former NFL running back Gerald Riggs, has great potential.
Toughest games: Aug. 30 vs. MW No. 14 Cincinnati Elder at Kirk Herbstreit Classic in Cincinnati (ESPN, tape delay), Oct. 17 vs. No. 38 Deerfield Beach, Nov. 14 at Miramar


Anonymous said...

Congrats to STA but......
beware, playing GCL Elder is no picnic.

signed: Independence, NC

Anonymous said...

STA is going to run circles around Elder.

Bernard is going to dominate.

Anonymous said...

Yep, heard the same comments last year before the Elder-Independence game. Could lightning strike twice? Yes, it could. It's a shame STA is not playing StX.

naughts08 said...

your stupid. STA is way more talented then independence. And you act like Indy was anything special last year. They lost twice to teams in North Carolina. So thank you come again. Sta will dominate.

Anonymous said...

hey naughts08....stupid, I don't think so. Indy wasn't anything special last year....but neither was 7-4 Elder, who got clubbed twice 18-0, 45-14 by StX. Like I said, it's a shame STA is not playing StX, even with X losing 18 starters.

Anonymous said...

Sta can boost its running by moving kennedy to hb and bernard to fbwhenwill george turn him loose

Anonymous said...

This is hands down the best team in the country