Closing the books on a football season simply means opening the cover of the next book.
As I look over my statewide evaluations by position, I take a look at where the Midlands’ top returning stat leaders will fit in among the state’s best next season.
RUSHING: Westwood’s Rudy Mitchell was the Midlands’ rushing leader in 2015, and the rising senior will have a chance to be among the best in the state in the next recruiting class. If I were doing rankings right now, Mitchell would be among the top players at this position behind Northwestern’s Jerry Howard and T.L. Hanna’s Davijuan Dean.
PASSING: Ben Lippen’s Patrick McClure returns after passing for 2,300 yards and 25 scores. But the Class of 2017 is deep at quarterback, and McClure will find himself outside of the statewide top 10, but among the top players in the SCISA league.
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RECEIVING: Chylon Thomas of Gray Collegiate returns after a 1,000-yard season for GCA. With a deep class of receivers, including one four-star in Wando’s OrTre Smith and several others with Division I offers, Thomas will find himself outside the top five, but with the potential to be inside the top 15.
TACKLES: Westwood linebacker Darius McCaskill and Blythewood’s Micah Byrd-Brown return as the leading tacklers in the Midlands. The linebacker group for 2017 is wide open, and both of these young men could find themselves among the state’s top players inside the linebacker top 10. Height will be a hurdle in recruiting.
SACKS: Ridge View’s Damani Staley returns after a 21-sack season but being listed at defensive end is not going to allow him to rate high in the rankings. If we end up listing Staley as a linebacker, which is what he will play at the next level, he could be one of the top two in the state.
INTERCEPTIONS: Lexington defensive back DaiQuan Wells returns as the interception leader next season in the Midlands, and he will rate well among the state’s best. Look for Wells, along with Ridge View’s Dinichie Ashe to be inside the top 10 and Wells’ teammate, Eric Ricker, to be inside the top 20.
PUNTING/KICKING: A.C. Flora’s Thomas McCutchen returns with a 39 yards-per-punt average, and should be among the top-10 punters in the state. Airport sophomore Paxton Brooks will return as a strong combo-kicker for the Eagles, but he will be a Class of 2018 guy.