Keep an eye on these locals in college football

The college football season is just underway, and dozens of players from The Laker/Lutz News coverage area can be seen showcasing their skills on Saturdays in the fall. Well over 100 players from the area are a part of various programs at the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Series (FCS) levels, as well as Division II, Division III and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

Here are a few to keep an eye on as the season progresses:

EMU’s Jaylen Pickett (Courtesy of Eastern Michigan University athletics)

Jaylen Pickett: Eastern Michigan University, senior linebacker
High School: Zephyrhills High School

After playing in just six games last season, the 6-foot, 224-pound senior backer hopes to return to his 2016 form when he registered 30 total tackles, two interceptions and three passes defensed in 13 games — then a solid contributor to an Eastern Michigan squad that achieved the program’s first winning season (7-6) since 1995. The former Zephyrhills star and FACA (Florida Athletic Coaches Association) District 10 Player of the Year is also making strides off the field. This past year he was one of about 230 student-athletes selected to attend the NCAA Career in Sports Forum in Indianapolis, which provides college athletes a broader scope of the career tracks available within the sports business, particularly college athletics.

Penn State’s Amani Oruwariye (Courtesy of Penn State University athletics)

Amani Oruwariye: Penn State University, redshirt senior cornerback
High School: Gaither High School

The 6-foot-1, 203-pound Oruwariye looks to build off a breakout 2017 season where he garnered second-team All-Big Ten honors after tallying four interceptions and 12 passes defensed, to go along with 28 tackles.

Mainly a rotation player before last year, Oruwariye has quietly had an impressive career at one of the nation’s most revered programs, playing in over 35 games since his redshirt freshman season.

Meantime, the former Gaither standout is also drawing some NFL buzz. He was named No. 63 on’s Top 150 college football players to watch in 2018 — generally lauded for his size and length, and overall playmaking ability.

FSU’s DeCalon Brooks (Courtesy of Florida State University athletics)

DeCalon Brooks: Florida State University, redshirt freshman linebacker
High School: Gaither High School

The son of NFL Hall of Fame linebacker and Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Florida State legend Derrick Brooks appears set on making a name for himself, too.

Reports from spring and fall camp describe the younger Brooks as finally healthy from a nagging knee injury he dealt with all last season — making flashy plays, and showing off his speed and instincts in practices.

Despite his relative youth and being undersized — 5-foot-10, 210 pounds— DeCalon is in line for significant playing time at any of the Seminoles’ outside linebacker/safety hybrid spots.

Production was never an issue for DeCalon when he starred at Gaither. He racked up 323 tackles, 38 tackles for loss and 16 sacks in three years on varsity.

Auburn’s Nate Craig-Myers (Courtesy of Auburn University athletics)

Nate Craig-Myers: Auburn University, junior wide receiver
High School: Pasco High School, Tampa Catholic High School

Projected as Auburn’s starting “Big Slot” receiver, the Dade City native is poised for a breakout campaign after posting 16 receptions for 285 yards (nearly 18 yards per catch) and three touchdowns in 14 games as a sophomore last season.

Throughout the offseason and fall camp, Auburn coaches have raved about the big-bodied receiver’s ability to make contested catches down the field and his efforts as a blocker.

The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Craig-Myers has shown some flashes of his potential as a former five-star prospect and arguably the most prized Bay Area recruit in the 2016 class.

In Auburn’s Peach Bowl last year loss to UCF, for example, Craig-Myers hauled in three catches for 54 yards. He’s notched big plays against tough SEC competition, as well.

Football talent runs in Craig-Myers’ family. His younger half-brother, Jayvaughn Myers (Pasco High) is a teammate with him at Auburn. Meanwhile, two of his older brothers — Josh Johnson (Purdue University, NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars) and Trey Dudley-Giles (University of Massachusetts, Indoor Football League’s Dodge City Law)— are Pasco High alums who played both college and professional football.

FAMU’s Chris Faddoul (Courtesy of Florida A& M University athletics)

Chris Faddoul: Florida A&M University, sophomore punter
High School: Wiregrass Ranch High School

Once a four-sport standout in high school, Chris Faddoul is sticking to just football in college — and he’s done a bang-up job with it.

Faddoul stepped in as FAMU’s starting punter as a freshman last season, where he quickly established himself as one of the more consistent in the Division I FCS ranks.

He averaged 39.4 yards per punt, pinning 16 of his 45 punts inside the 20-yard-line. Distance also proved a strength of Faddoul’s, recording eight punts of 50-plus yards, including a long of 55 yards.

Faddoul is expected to build off his first-year success, picking up All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) preseason honors.

He isn’t the only Wesley Chapel native on the Rattlers roster, either. Ellrie Allen, who graduated from Wesley Chapel High School, is a sophomore safety on the Division I FCS club.

And for those wondering where Faddoul’s athletic prowess comes from? Look no further than his father, who competed for the 1972 Lebanese Olympic Team in high jump and javelin.

Other locals to follow on the gridiron:

Jayvaughn Myers: Auburn University, redshirt freshman defensive back
High School: Pasco High School
Expected to vie for playing time in Auburn’s secondary after a strong fall camp.

Isaiah Bolden: Florida State University, freshman defensive back
High School: Wesley Chapel High School
One of the most highly-touted prospects to come out of Pasco County in years, Bolden could see the field as a true freshman in FSU head coach Willie Taggart’s first season.

Antwione Sims: Samford University, freshman running back
High School: Zephyrhills High School
Zephyrhills High’s record-setting rusher seeks a fresh start at Samford after transferring from Navy and recovering from a torn ACL that ended his prep football career.

Tyler Mirabella: Stetson University, redshirt sophomore linebacker
High School: Steinbrenner High School
Should be in store for a solid sophomore campaign after posting 38 tackles and a forced fumble and starting the final five games in 2017.

Donovan Jennings: University of South Florida, freshman offensive lineman
High School: Gaither High School
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound behemoth has quickly worked his way onto USF’s two-deep depth chart, as a backup left tackle.

Shane McGough: Florida International University, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman
High School: Gaither High School
Younger brother of Seattle Seahawks quarterback (and Gaither High/FIU alum) Alex McGough enters the season as FIU’s backup right guard; played in nine games with two starts in 2017.

Published September 5, 2018

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