Right when the college football season feels like it is shifting into its highest gear, it ends — or at least, the regular season does. That's what happened Saturday, as teams across the country brought their schedules to a close and now wait for conference championship games to be played and for bowl game slots to be assigned. The first of those bowl games, the Bahamas Bowl, won't be until Dec. 16. The wait isn't long, but it is excruciating.
If nothing else, the time in-between does provide a chance to reflect. For us, that means a chance to look at how Sarasota-area players fared in 2022. To no one's surprise, there were plenty of former Rams, Sailors, Cougars and Tornadoes who played up their own high standards, and others who showed flashes of the potential they possess and (might) unlock in the coming years.
Let's start with the undisputed star. South Florida stumbled and fell in 2022. The Bulls finished with a 1-11 record and fired coach Jeff Scott on Nov. 6. The one silver lining: Former Sarasota High running back Brian Battie had a stellar season. Battie, a sophomore, had 280 carries, 1,842 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns. Battie also caught 14 catches for 91 yards, plus 659 kick return yards. In becoming just the sixth Bull to rush for 1,000 yards, Battie is following in the footsteps of former Booker High running back Marlon Mack, who achieved the feat in all three of his Bulls seasons (2014-2016).
Hopefully, whichever coach Battie is playing for next year will know how to use him. He's one of the quickest players in the country and can get yardage with ease. It seemed like every time I checked in on a USF game, Battie was making something positive happen — not an easy feat on that team.
Michigan State defensive back Charles Brantley — a Sarasota native who spent two years at Riverview High before transferring to Venice High — saw plenty of playing time as a sophomore for the Spartans. Brantley played in 11 of the team's 12 games and recorded 48 total tackles (22 solo) with two tackles for loss and a sack. Brantley also had a 32-yard pick six in the team's Oct. 8 game against Ohio State and seven passes defended.
Brantley's teammate, Jaron Glover, is a former Riverview wide receiver. Glover, a 6-foot-1 freshman, caught one pass for two yards this season, but seeing the field at all this early, for a big-time team like the Spartans, is a victory. I'd expect Glover to be a key contributor in the next season or two.
Central Michigan junior Jacques Bristol, a Booker grad, remained a steady presence on the Chippewas' interior defensive line. Bristol had 34 tackles (17 solo) and a sack, plus a pass defended, but his main contributions can't be seen on a stats page. Bristol is a reliable disruptor in the running game.
Former Booker High wide receiver Talik Keaton, a junior at Marshall, missed the Thundering Herd's November slate of games after suffering a lower-body injury against Coastal Carolina on Oct. 29, but he was on track to have his most productive season yet. In eight games, Keaton caught 24 passes for 226 yards and returned 15 punts for 106 total yards.
Since getting 118 carries as a freshman thanks to a wave of injuries in the Minnesota backfield, former Cardinal Mooney running back Bryce Williams — now a senior — waited patiently for chance to meaningfully contribute again. He still wasn't the Golden Gophers' lead back in 2022, but Williams' patience did pay off. He received 49 carries for 248 yards (5.0 yards a carry) and three touchdowns while spelling Minnesota star Ibrahim Mohamed. He likely could have been a starter for a smaller school; in the age of the transfer portal, I'm glad Williams got some reward for his decision to stay loyal to the team that signed him.
Former Sarasota High tight end August Drews played in three games this year as a redshirt freshman at Appalachian State. Drews caught his first career pass on Oct. 29 against Robert Morris, taking it 18 yards. In time, the 6-foot-5 Drews has potential as a blocker and a red zone target for the Mountaineers.
Zahodri Jackson, a former Riverview defensive back, transferred from Utah State to North Texas for his senior season. Jackson saw action in 10 games and recorded 10 tackles, four of them coming in the team's regular season finale against Rice, a 21-17 win.
At the FCS level of NCAA's Division I, former Sailor Jamall Thompson saw action as a freshman defensive end for the 10-1 Samford Bulldogs. Thompson, who is 6-foot-3, has 18 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Samford is a serious FCS program, with their only loss coming to Georgia, so these numbers are more impressive than they seem at a glance.
It's possible that a number of these players are playing for different teams next season. The transfer portal window opens Dec. 5 and according to many members of the college football media, there is going to be a metric ton of movement, not just from backups looking for greener grass, but from high-end starters on successful teams, who may bump out incumbent starters elsewhere. No one knows how it will shake out, but my hope is that however it does, it allows these kids and others from the area to keep doing their thing, wherever they can. They deserve that much.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.