More of the same for 2012 skill-position standouts in 2013?
Originally published: Aug 15, 2013 - 12:00 am
A nice array of been there, done that skill-position players are a week or two away from revving it up for possible encore performances.
For a few, it's hard to imagine they can do better. Some may not need to for their team to excel. Most everyone has the desire to build on what they accomplished the year before. The soon-to-be-mentioned folks here likely fit that description.
Here's a look at some of the top returning individual East Valley offensive talents, who could have deja vu campaigns, barring injury or other playing-time loss:
JALEN BROWN, WR, SR, MOUNTAIN POINTE (D-I): Brown turned in a plus 1,000-yard receiving season last year (67 catches for 1,235 yards and 18 touchdowns) as a junior -- his best effort by far offensively in his first three campaigns with the Pride. With his battery mate returning this season as well (Antonio Hinojosa), Brown should be able to match the totals as long as Mountain Pointe's ground game is able to produce similarly to 2012. The Pride will have new running backs to fill graduated spots.
MATT GUIDA, RB, SR, QUEEN CREEK (D-III): Guida didn't endure much punishment in racing for 2,829 yards on 204 rushes and 31 TDs in 2012 for the unbeaten D-III champion Bulldogs. Guida carried 20 or more times in just three of Queen Creek's 14 games. He often eludes or runs away from defenders, particularly last year when his senior-laden O-line made it easy on most totes. Queen Creek has a tougher schedule coming this year and a talented speedster Marcus Still has opted to focus on baseball his senior year. Whether or not Guida can duplicate 2012 output is somewhat in question, but he is easily worth the price of admission Friday nights.
TAREK MORRISON, QB, SR, DESERT RIDGE (D-I): Morrison battled through injury late in the season -- a bad time -- but still managed to rush for 1,404 yards and 18 TDs for the Jaguars. It would help if a complementary back emerges -- usually not a problem for Desert Ridge. An improved passing game wouldn't hurt either, but that's not Morrison's strong suit.
JOSH ECKLEY, QB, SR. MARCOS DE NIZA (D-II): Eckley was surrounded by a truckload of accomplished skill players last season, certainly helping him amass 2,600 yards passing and another half a thousand rushing. Nearly all of them graduated. Eckley was very efficient and made few mistakes throwing for 26 TDs with only five picks in 205 attempts. A decent cast side by side with him this year shouldn't keep him from having a good year. But matching 2012 seems a tough sell at the outset.
EMANUEL GANT, QB, JR, TEMPE (D-III): The Buffaloes loved to throw last year and this year shouldn't be any different with the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Gant starting for the third year in a row. With three of his top four receivers back, continued quality production seems a certainty. Gant averaged 30 attempts a game, collecting 2,912 yards and 24 TDs. Massiah Smith, Sebastian Watkins and Osvaldo Gomez are dependable plus. Smith grabbed 68 passes for 950 yards and 9 TDs to lead the trio of top options. A reduction in interceptions would help Gant (14 a year ago). Tempe, with decent protection for Gant, may be able to return to postseason after falling just short last season. The addition of a promising back, Kamron Johnson, who transferred from Marcos de Niza, could ease the load on Gant.
DIONTE SYKES, WR, SR, CHANDLER (D-I): Sykes is one of three returning Wolves' receivers with 25 catches or more from last year, but opens 2013 recovering from a hairline fracture in his hand from an early practice mishap. Sykes must work with a new quarterback in junior Bryce Perkins, who is highly touted despite minimal playing time a year ago. Sykes caught 42 passes for 708 yards and nine TDs. Another returning receiver, smaller but equally prolific Mitch McCulley (41 receptions and five TDs) can take heat off Sykes, who will likely command double coverage.
RAJHAN MERIWETHER, RB, SR, BASHA (D-I): Meriwether is a workhorse back, who ground out 1,151 yards and 10 TDs last season. Meriwether is the top returning receiver (28 receptions for 268 yards) with wide out Nate Phillips and WR-TE Ronnie Querry gone. Expect another heavy dose of Meriwether this season when Basha chooses to run, but the Bears won't be afraid to wing it with returning QB Zach Werlinger more than capable. Werlinger passed for 2,689 yards and 30 TDs as a junior and keeps Meriwether in his sights.
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