It won't be long before a new football season is under way, bringing with it the promise of new talent rising to prominence in Prince George's County.
But there will be 10 members of last year's All-Gazette team still prowling the gridiron, including the reigning offensive player of the year.
We've got wideoutsTwo All-Gazette wide receivers already have made verbal commitments. Frederick Douglass coach J.C. Pinkney said Paul Harris is taking classes this summer and plans to graduate in December and enroll early at the University of Tennessee. Two weeks ago, Suitland's Taivon Jacobs announced his decision to attend Ohio State.
Both will be playing for teams that are breaking in new quarterbacks this fall after veteran starters Taitor Reynolds (Douglass) and Nyema Washington (Suitland) graduated.
“Paul definitely changes the landscape for teams, they have to account for him,” Douglass coach J.C. Pinkney said of the 6-foot-4 Harris, who had 39 catches for 735 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall.
One of Douglass' other returning All-Gazette players, Matthew Paul, might end up playing quarterback. As a junior last fall, Paul played running back and was one of the Eagles' top defensive players with 146 tackles and six interceptions.
Pinkney said the quarterback spot is between Paul and incoming freshman Devin Butler, who showed promise during youth league games with the Marlboro Boys and Girls Club.
Jacobs also is an accomplished sprinter and has spent the summer running track. As a junior last fall Jacobs caught 35 passes for 921 yards and 13 touchdowns. He looked closely at Maryland, where his brother Levern is on the team, and at West Virginia before choosing Ohio State.
“Track helps with endurance, but he'll need to get back into football shape,” Suitland coach Ed Shields said of Jacobs. “In the past Taivon has always worked very hard at that.”
Battle of the running backs
In addition to a standout wide receiver, Suitland also will have the reigning All-Gazette Offensive Player of the Year, running back Anthony Squire. A 5-10, 180-pound rising senior, Squire ran for 1,611 yards and 20 touchdowns and had 247 receiving yards and two touchdown catches last year.
Shields said Squire has heard from Towson University and his anticipating more interest once his latest SAT scores are available.
“I'm happy with his work,” Shields said. “He's put in a lot of hard work over the summer. As I tell all of them, you can't rest off of what you did last year. I've seen a number of players who had great junior years and in their senior years they fell off, so you can be one of them or not be one of them.”
Northwestern's Darius Victor also is back after running for 1,133 yards and 18 touchdowns last fall.
Winning in the trenches
Douglass and Henry A. Wise each will have returning All-Gazette offensive linemen. Rising senior Antonio Harris, a 6-4, 310-pound guard at Wise, has offers from Howard, Buffalo, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, James Madison, Ohio University and Old Dominion.
“He's a leader and we expect big things from him,” said Wise coach DaLawn Parrish, adding that Harris also will play on the defensive line this fall. “The way he progresses will help take the line to a whole other level.”
At Douglass, James Fenwick returns to the starting center spot and also will play along the defensive front.
“He doesn't say much of anything, but he just does his job,” Pinkney said of Fenwick. “His stock is going to go up after this year.”
Fenwick has heard from Concord University, a Division II school in West Virginia.
Doing it on 'D'
Linebacker DaJuan Randall returns for his senior year after helping lead Surrattsville to the 1A South Region championship game last fall. He had 98 tackles and two interceptions at middle linebacker and also will start at center for the Hornets again this fall.
“His biggest strength is anticipating the play,” said Surrattsville coach Robert Harris. “He does a lot of pregame preparation and looked a lot at adjustments the offense was making and that helped him a whole lot.”
Harris said Randall (5-10, 175) has drawn a lot of interest from Division II schools, but is hoping to gain a little bulk to attract more offers.
Defensive end D'Sean Cummings was a disruptive force for Douglass last fall with 109 tackles and seven sacks. The 6-4, 215-pound rising senior is sitting on offers from Bucknell, Hampton, Hawaii, Monmouth, Ohio University and Richmond.
“He's got a high motor, high energy,” Pinkney said of Cummings. “You can never have enough of those guys. I'm excited for him. He should be a dominant player.”
Paul, who likely will be a strong safety at the college level, will again be a standout linebacker for Douglass. Pinkney said Paul has an offer from Concord and also has drawn interest from Rhode Island, Old Dominion and Howard.
Charles H. Flowers rising senior Keith Payne's claim to fame last fall was catching the last-second Hail Mary pass that lifted the Jaguars to a win against Bladensburg. The catch made it onto ESPN's Top Plays segment. Payne will play on both sides of the ball again, and is a returning All-Gazette defensive back after making 48 tackles with 10 interceptions and 15 pass breakups in 2011.