Everyone has a different definition of a breakout player or a breakout season. When I came up with this list I looked at football players who have performed well on the varsity level and, in some cases, even received all-district honors but are now on the verge of having a much bigger individual seasons in 2011.
Some of these players you may heard already and some you may not. Either way, you’ll be seeing their names printed a lot more this fall.
Jarrell Humphrey – Boyd
-Everyone, including yours truly, is buzzing about senior and highly-recruited defensive end Jamal Palmer. But, as a sophomore last season, Jarrell Humphrey emerged as a force on the Broncos’ defensive line. As a junior, I fully expect Humphrey to elevate past the all-district honorable mention list and into the first team defense category. This kid can flat out play football and if you don’t believe me go back and watch the video of his interception return for a touchdown against Rowlett. When a young player on the defensive line has the athleticism and prescense of mind to catch the ball and get to the endzone you know you have a special player on your hands. Humphrey is also big and physical and playing alongside Palmer is a tremendous advantage.
Devin Smith – North
-Smith has been a varsity starter since he was a sophomore so why is he on the breakout players list? Well, it’s like I’ve been saying all along – Smith has been good and sometimes great but he has yet to put his stamp on the North football program. For the Dawgs to make the playoffs and shock the critics, Smith will need to turn into a star and I believe he will. Expect Smith to have the best senior rushing performance the Bulldogs have seen since Chase Barrett.
Connor Fuentes – MHS
-In 2010, Connor Fuentes was the only sophomore on a receiving core that was dominated by seniors, including Devante Harrision, MacKenzie Logan, and Quentin Casner. He caught just three passes for 39 yards. Not exactly the type of statistics that create junior year hype but that’s exactly what Fuentes has going into this fall. The Lions are expecting big plays out of their junior receiver and if spring football and 7-on-7 are any indication of what he can bring to the table, get ready for big passing plays between QB Robert Somborn and Fuentes. Breaking tackles? Check. Cutting plays across the field? Check. One-handed catches? Check. This kid is ready for a breakout season.
Hunter Walling – North
-The Dawgs have been looking for leadership at the quarterback position and it looks like Hunter Walling is the leader they’ve been searching for. So – as I’ve been saying all summer – the pressure is now on Walling to lead the Dawgs to the promised land. Last year’s group failed to reach their playoff goal but the North QB claims this year’s team will do what it takes to reach the postseason.
“We know what it feels to come so close and not make it and this year we aren’t going to let that happen.”
Sounds like a leader to me. Head coach Mike Fecci and his staff believe Walling has the skill set to lead the offense on the field and the mental toughness to lead his team off the field as well. If North reaches the playoffs it will be because Walling gets them in position to make a late season push. In order to do that he will need to have a breakout season at QB.
Rafael Serrano – Boyd
-Serrano was a second team all-district offensive linemen as a sophomore, which is impressive enough. But I expect the Broncos’ guard to have a breakout junior season and pave the way for Dowell Middle School teammate Bryan Driskell to reach the 2,000-yard rushing mark.
Sam Lucania – North
-What good is a having a leader at quarterback without a wide receiver to throw the ball to? Well, here’s your guy. Sam Lucania led the team in receptions last season with 25 for 320 yards. Lucania caught the second most passes of any receiver in McKinney ISD. Number one was, of course, Boyd’s James Driskell with a whopping 68 receptions. By the start of district play, the combination of Walling to Lucania should be well developed and the senior wideout will be on his way to a first team all-district senior season.
Marquez Husband – MHS
-It’s been more than five years since the Lions went into a season with questions surrounding the running back position. From Chris Wimbish to Eddie Morgan to Calvin Maxwell to Brett Heldt to Damion Willis and T.J. Tarver – the Lions have had no shortage of talent in the backfield over the years. But when Willis and Tarver walked off of the Ron Poe Stadium turf for the final time, there wasn’t a clear successor like there had been in previous years at MHS. In spring football, the focus shifted to soon-to-be junior Marquez Husband as he appeared to be the next starting running back. Linebacker turned running back? A rare story, indeed. But one that will have people talking this fall in a good way.
Cameron Decell – Boyd
-As a junior, Decell was Boyd’s second leading receiver with 17 catches for 242 yards and three touchdowns. With James Driskell’s high school career complete, there is a lot of expectations and pressure on Decell to lead the receiving core this fall. Decell is 6-foot-4, runs a 4.7 40-yard dash, and in 2011 he will be one of District 10-5A’s biggest playmakers.
Jonathan Shannon – MHS
-Shannon was one of District 10-4A’s hottest newcomers as a sophomore but this fall the Lions will count on him to be a duel threat as a cornerback and a running back. After watching Shannon blow past the defense for a 50-yard touchdown in 7-on-7, Jeff Smith just smiled and said, “Yeah, he’s pretty good.”
Back in 2006, the Lions made a similar move with all-star safety Eddie Morgan. Like Shannon, Morgan was a stellar defensive player but was too good of an athlete to not get him involved on the offensive side of the ball. Expect Shannon to rush out of the backfield, line up at receiver, and even take snaps out of the wildcat formation. If there’s an open opportunity, the Lions won’t hesitate to put the ball in this young man’s hands and he could very well be the x-factor that puts MHS in playoff position.
-Joe Arriola, TownSquareBuzz.com