Locals make impact in college football ranks

The college football regular season has come to a close, and dozens of players with ties to The Laker/Lutz News coverage area showcased their skills on Saturdays in the fall.

More than 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’s a closer look at a few of the top performers from the 2018 season:

Amani Oruwariye

Amani Oruwariye—Penn State University, redshirt senior cornerback
High School/Hometown: Gaither High School/Tampa

The former Gaither standout earned first-team All-Big 10 honors, finishing the season with three interceptions, 12 pass breakups and 48 tackles — part of a secondary that allowed 186.5 yards through the air per game, a number that ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten Conference.

Some outlets, including Pro Football Focus and CBS Sports, project the 6-foot-1, 203-pound Oruwariye as a possible first-round talent in the 2019 NFL Draft, for his ideal size, ball skills and man-to-man coverage responsibilities.

Oruwariye is one of several Gaither alums playing at the Division I football ranks. Others include DeCalon Brooks (Florida State, redshirt freshman linebacker), Estefano Feliciano (Old Dominion, redshirt freshman linebacker), Donovan Jennings (South Florida, freshman offensive lineman), Cayden Jordan (Charleston Southern, freshman wide receiver), Shane McGough (Florida International, redshirt sophomore center) and Matthew Wood (Holy Cross, freshman linebacker).

Jaylen Pickett

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

After playing in just six contests last season, the Zephyrhills High product bounced back for a productive senior campaign — registering 72 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and two sacks; and, helping Eastern Michigan (7-5) become bowl eligible for the second time in three years. Should Eastern Michigan earn a bowl bid, the 6-foot-1, 224-pound Pickett will suit up one final time as a Division I FBS football player.

Pickett also happens to be college teammates with another athlete with local ties — sophomore running back Willie Parker, who attended Carrollwood Day School.

The Pickett name is a familiar one in Zephyrhills — Jaylen’s father, Damian Pickett, and his  uncle, Ryan Pickett (13-year NFL veteran) are both former Bulldogs greats from the 1990s.

Scott Patchan

Scott Patchan—University of Miami, redshirt junior defensive end
High School/Hometown: IMG Academy/Freedom High School/New Tampa

Coming out of Freedom High (and transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton for his senior year), Patchan was one of the state’s most highly rated prospects in the 2015 recruiting class.

He’s finally starting to live up to the hype of being a four-star recruit who was once courted by blue blood programs like Florida State, Ohio State, Notre Dame and others.

After playing tight end for Miami last season, he moved back to his more natural position of defensive end, posting 23 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble in 11 games. He played in just five games the last two seasons combined.

Provided he stays healthy, look for the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Patchan to be one of Miami’s top defensive players next season.

Patchan is something of a Miami legacy, as his father Matt Patchan III won national titles with the Canes in 1983 and 1987.

DeCalon Brooks

DeCalon Brooks—Florida State University, redshirt freshman linebacker
High School/Hometown: Gaither High School/Tampa

The son of NFL Hall of Famer/Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Florida State legend Derrick Brooks appears set on paving his own legacy at the same institution his father once starred.

After logging repetitions on the Seminoles’ scout team last season—and dealing with a nagging knee injury throughout — the younger Brooks emerged to become one of the Seminoles’ more productive defensive players in 2018 — registering 46 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and forced fumble in 11 contests.

Moving forward, the undersized, yet speedy 5-foot-11, 211-pound backer looks to be a building block for a Seminoles program, which just suffered its first losing season (5-7) since 1976, under first-year head coach Willie Taggart.

Brooks is one of several young Seminoles with ties to The Laker/Lutz News coverage area, joining freshman defensive back Isaiah Bolden (Wesley Chapel High School), sophomore tight end Tre’ McKitty (Wesley Chapel native/Wesley Chapel High/IMG Academy) and freshman offensive lineman Chaz Neal (Wesley Chapel High).

Chris Faddoul

Chris Faddoul—Florida A&M University, sophomore punter
High School/Hometown: Wiregrass Ranch High School/Wesley Chapel

The former Wiregrass Ranch multi-sport star emerged as one of the nation’s premier specialists this season, earning first team All-MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) honors and leading the Division I FCS ranks in punting average (47.0 yards per punt) — up from 39.4 yards per punt he posted as a true freshman in 2017.

As a further show of Faddoul’s leg strength, 14 of 41 punts were 50 or more yards, including a long of 67 yards. He also tallied seven touchbacks, nine fair catches, and 17 punts inside the 20-yard line.

While at Wiregrass Ranch, it seemed as though no sport was off limits for Faddoul. He played football, soccer, tennis, and also competed in track & field.

Also noteworthy, Florida A&M has another Wesley Chapel native on its roster — sophomore safety Ellrie Allen, who prepped at Wesley Chapel High School.

Other news and notes on locals in college football:

—Former Zephyrhills High record-setting running back Antwione Sims made solid contributions in his freshman season at Samford University, tallying 150 rushing yards on 35 carries; also added 10 receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown.

—Before he suffered a torn ACL in late October, Dade City native/Pasco High/Tampa Bay Tech alum Mike Penix Jr., saw some action throughout his freshman season at Indiana University, completing 21 of 34 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown in three appearances.

—Wesley Chapel native/ Wesley Chapel High/IMG Academy product Tre’ McKitty had a strong sophomore campaign at the tight end spot for Florida State University, catching 26 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games.

— Former Wiregrass Ranch High standouts Jordan Miner (Penn State) and Daniel Biglow (Florida Atlantic University) were forced to retire from football before their college freshman seasons due to similar cardiovascular conditions. (Physicals revealed the sport would put too much stress on their hearts.) Miner and Biglow, who are cousins, helped Wiregrass Ranch to two straight playoff appearances in 2016 and 2017.

—Wesley Chapel High product Isaiah Bolden had his freshman season at Florida State University cut short when he suffered season-ending shoulder injury in September. Since Bolden played in only one game this season, NCAA rules allowed him to redshirt this season and have four more years of eligibility.

— Dade City natives and half-brothers Nate Craig-Myers (Pasco High/Tampa Catholic) and Jayvaughn Myers (Pasco High) both left the Auburn University football team in September.

Craig-Myers, a junior receiver, and Myers, a redshirt sophomore defensive back, both have two years of eligibility remaining at the program they transfer to. (The NCAA’s new redshirt rules allow players to play in up to four games before losing the ability to redshirt and preserve a season of eligibility.)

Published December 5, 2018

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