Another exciting and memorable college football season is in the books. In addition to the University of Alabama capturing its sixth national title under head coach Nick Saban and the University of Central Florida finishing with an unblemished 13-0 record, several locals had noteworthy individual campaigns in 2017.
Here’s a look back at some of the top performers from The Laker/Lutz News coverage area, including both Pasco and Hillsborough counties, that shined in the Division I FBS and FCS ranks in 2017:
Auden Tate, wide receiver, Florida State University
High School: Wharton High School; graduated in 2015
Tate offered one of the few bright spots for a Florida State team that took a step back in 2017, finishing an uncharacteristic 7-6.
A viable red-zone threat, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound junior tallied 40 receptions for 548 yards and a team-leading 10 touchdown receptions.
And, his last game was his best.
In the Seminole’s 42-12 win over Southern Mississippi in the Dec. 27 Independence Bowl, Tate tallied three touchdown passes as part of a five catch, 84-yard performance.
Tate has since announced he will forego his senior season to enter the 2018 NFL draft. Many outlets project the wide-out to be one of the top receivers selected, possibly between the first and fourth rounds.
A native of South Carolina, Tate moved to Tampa after his freshman year of high school. At Wharton, he developed into one of the nation’s most sought-after recruits, with his rare combination of size and athleticism.
Chase Litton, quarterback, Marshall University (Huntington, West Virginia)
High School: Wharton High School; graduated in 2014
Litton capped off his junior season —and third year as Marshall’s starter— in impressive fashion.
He threw for 3,115 yards and 25 touchdowns, leading the Thundering Herd to an 8-5 record that was capped by a 31-28 win over Colorado State University in the Dec. 16 New Mexico Bowl.
The 6-foot-6, 232-pount Litton became just the second quarterback in school history to complete at least 60 percent of his passes in three consecutive seasons. The other was Byron Leftwich, who spent a decade in the NFL from 2003 to 2012.
Litton, who recently declared for the NFL Draft, cemented himself as one of the Marshall’s all-time great passers. He ranks fourth in program history in career touchdown passes (72); fourth in most pass completions (772); and fifth in career passing yards (8,832).
In four years at Wharton, Litton amassed more than 7,600 passing yards and 54 touchdowns. He was also a standout basketball player with more than 1,000 career points.
Alex McGough, quarterback, Florida International University
High School: Gaither High School; graduated in 2014
The four-year starter guided Florida International to an 8-5 record — tying the best mark in the program’s 16-year history. (FIU also went 8-5 in 2011).
McGough’s senior season was also his best season numbers-wise. Completing 65 percent of his passes, the 6-foot-3, 218-pound pocket passer tallied 2,798 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions. A capable runner, he added 231 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
McGough exits the FIU program with numerous passing records, including most career touchdown passes (65).
His accomplished career came to a bittersweet end in the Gasparilla Bowl on Dec. 21, when he fractured his left collarbone on the team’s first offensive drive. FIU ended up losing to Temple 28-3.
McGough was rather lightly recruited out of Gaither (FIU was his only Division I scholarship offer) despite being one of Tampa Bay’s most decorated passers — amassing more than 5,100 career passing yards and 52 touchdown passes in four varsity seasons. He also played baseball and soccer.
McGough’s younger brother, Shane, also plays for FIU and graduated from Gaither.
Shaheed Salmon, linebacker, Samford University (Homewood, Alabama)
High School: Land O’ Lakes High School; graduated in 2014
The 6-foot-2, 233-pound senior outside linebacker followed up last year’s All-Southern Conference campaign with an even better showing, posting a team-leading 109 total tackles, along with 15.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and an interception. He again received First Team All-Southern Conference honors and was named Third Team Stats FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) All-American.
Salmon had four games with 10 or more tackles, including a career-high 18 in the team’s NCAA Playoff game at Kennesaw State.
He also was named Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Month in November.
The defensive stalwart and sure tackler was also one of the key reasons Samford posted an 8-4 overall record (6-2 conference play) and reached the FCS Playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1992.
At Land O’ Lakes High, Salmon was a three-sport standout, competing in football, basketball and track. In his senior year, he led the Gators in tackles (117), tackles for loss (21.5) and sacks (8.5).
Amani Oruwariye, cornerback, Penn State University (State College, Pennsylvania)
High School: Gaither High School; graduated in 2014
Despite missing two games to injury, the 6-foot-1, 209-pound redshirt junior firmly established himself as one of the Big Ten Conference’s top cornerbacks — posting a team-high four interceptions, along with 12 passes defended and 28 total tackles — helping the Nittany Lions to an 11-2 record and Fiesta Bowl win.
The on-field performance proved good enough for second team All-Big Ten honors — Penn State’s first cornerback to do so since 2008.
Expected to return for his senior season, Oruwariye is regarded for his size, length and athleticism at the defensive back position.
Prior to college football, Oruwariye was a three-year letterman at Gaither High and earned team MVP honors his senior year. He also earned first-team all-district honors and was selected to play in the Hillsborough County All-Star Game.
Janarion Grant, wide receiver, Rutgers University (Piscataway, New Jersey)
High School: Pasco High School; graduated in 2013
Battled injuries all season long, but still managed to finish with 600 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in seven games. Exits Rutgers as its all-time kickoff return yardage leader (2,857 yards) and tied for the NCAA record for combined kick return touchdowns (8).
Nate Craig-Myers, wide receiver, Auburn University (Auburn, Alabama)
High School(s): Pasco High School; Tampa Catholic High School; graduated in 2016
Dade City native displayed a solid sophomore campaign, tallying 16 receptions for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Will be expected to make a bigger impact in 2018.
Chris Faddoul, punter, Florida A&M University
High School: Wiregrass Ranch High School; graduated in 2017
Freshman averaged 39.4 yards per punt, including eight of 50 or more yards. Also, pinned 16 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Shane Bucenell, quarterback, Charleston Southern University (Charleston, South Carolina)
High School: Wiregrass Ranch High School; graduated in 2015
Sophomore passed for 737 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. Also, rushed 164 yards. Last month announced plans to transfer to another school.
Published January 17, 2018