Local players break onto college football scene.
Months ago, it appeared that the college football season was in jeopardy.
That turned out to be false (thank goodness), but the COVID-19 pandemic still fractured the sport. Conferences decided to begin play at different times and only play conference games. The odd nature of the season, and the spread-out playing dates, meant it would be easy for local players to get lost.
That's the last thing I want. So, in case you don't know, there are a ton of players from Sarasota doing big things right now. Here's some of them (and how you can watch):
It has only been one game, but it looks like Booker high alumnus Osirus Mitchell is benefiting from the coaching change at Mississippi State. Under Mike Leach's air raid attack, the Bulldogs' passing game lit up defending champion LSU's defense in a 44-34 win. Bulldogs quarterback K.J. Costello set a Southeastern Conference record by throwing for 623 yards— 183 of which went to Mitchell, a senior wide receiver. That's 42.6% of his 2019 total already, and his 2019 total led the team. The 6-foot-5 Mitchell caught seven passes in the game, two for touchdowns.
The Bulldogs are now ranked 16th in the country by the Associated Press. I don't know how good their defense is, but their offense is legit, and Mitchell is a big part of it. Mississippi State next plays Arkansas at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. The game can be watched on the SEC Network's alternate channel.
Mitchell is hardly the only former Tornado making a name. Marshall sophomore wideout Talik Keaton has played in both Thundering Herd games thus far. Keaton, who was a first-team All-Conference USA punt returner in 2019, has caught three passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. Keaton has also returned six punts for 26 yards in the two games. Marshall is 2-0 and is next scheduled to play Western Kentucky on Oct. 10.
Booker is not alone in boasting college football talent. At South Florida, former Sarasota High running back Brian Battle has seen action as a freshman in both Bulls games. He has six rushing attempts, but they have gone for 52 yards, a healthy 8.7 yards per attempt. He should get more playing time as the season progresses (if South Florida is smart, anyway). The 1-1 Bulls next play the 15th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. That game can be watched on ESPN+.
Even more alumni will play in the weeks to come. At Indiana, former Riverview cornerback Jamar Johnson will look to capitalize on a sophomore 2019 campaign that saw him collect 18 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Johnson should have an even larger footprint this year. The Hoosiers begin Oct. 24 against 10th-ranked Penn State, time and channel to be determined.
Staying in the Big 10, Cardinal Mooney graduate Bryce Williams will continue his career at Minnesota. Williams, a sophomore running back, had 17 carries in 2019 and ended up taking a redshirt season, but he had 117 (for 502 yards) as a freshman thanks to some Minnesota injuries. Williams is in position to be the No. 2 back this season, meaning his numbers should only go up. The Golden Gophers start Oct. 24 against 23rd-ranked Michigan, time and channel to be determined.
Other alums starting their seasons soon include former Booker defensive tackle Jacques Bristol (at Central Michigan), former Riverview lineman Kye Dixon (at Florida Atlantic) and former Riverview defensive back Zahodri Jackson (at Utah State).