This is a banner year for Williamson County high school football, and that’s reflected in our Preseason Offensive Player of the Year rankings.
The offensive talent between the schools on this list (see that below) is simply ridiculous. However, that forced us into some tough choices. There are future FBS college players who didn’t crack our list, as well as others who won’t be FBS players, but have a great track record of production.
We expanded our list beyond the Williamson County border to include schools where the rosters may have representation from the county. Because of that, you see Christ Presbyterian Academy, Ensworth, Father Ryan, Franklin Road Academy and Spring Hill joining Brentwood Academy, Brentwood, BGA, Fairview, Franklin, Grace Christian Academy, Independence, Nolensville, Page, Ravenwood and Summit.
We decided not to include offensive linemen in our ranking. It’s just too tough to have a moving evaluation of those players and compare them to the skill position players. So, our apologies to players like Franklin’s Max Wray and Brentwood’s Cole Mabry, both whom would have wonderful cases for this list.
Without further adieu, here’s our preseason top 10 offensive players, as well as honorable mentions.
10. Nicky Clifton
Ensworth, Sr., running back, 6-0, 230
Clifton is a physical runner with good vision who’s not afraid to run between the tackles or pop it outside. Made all-region last and ran for 1,183 yards on 159 carries last season despite playing just eight games. Here are some video highlights of Clifton from his junior season.
Brentwood Academy, Sr., quarterback, 6-4, 220
Schoenwald spent 2016 at tight end, where he caught 34 balls for 329 yards and four scores. Because of that ability as a receiver, he earned a scholarship to Vanderbilt, where he’s committed to play football. However, Schoenwald returns to quarterback for the Eagles this fall. Rivals ranks Schoenwald as a three-star prospect and the No. 16 player in Tennessee, as does 247 Sports. Here are video highlights of Schoenwald as a junior.
8. Tai Carter
Summit, Sr., running back, Sr., 5-11, 180
Carter ran for 1,376 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior. He can also catch passes and is an impact punt returner and cornerback. Rivals ranks him as a two-star recruit and the No. 28 player in the state, and 247 Sports also ranked him as a two-star recruit. Toledo and UTSA have extended scholarship offers. Here are some video highlights of Carter.
7. Carson Shacklett
Brentwood, Sr., quarterback, 6-0, 180
Last year’s 7-5A co-Offensive Player of the Year, Shacklett shows good mobility and pocket presence, and has nice touch on his throws. He ran and threw for over 2,300 combined yards and 33 total touchdowns in 2016, leading the Bruins to a 14-1 record. Here are some video highlights of Shacklett.
6. Lance Wilhoite
Franklin Road Academy, Jr., wide receiver, 6-3, 180
FRA went 1-9 last year, but that had nothing to do with Lance Wilhoite, who made plays as a receiver, blocked kicks, delivered big hits on defense. An all-region pick as a sophomore, Wilhoite is a smooth route-runner, and he’s athletic and speedy enough to pick up yards after the catch. He’s also strong and agile enough to win one-on-one battles when the ball is in the air. A four-star recruit by both Rivals (and the No. 193 player in the 2019 class) and 247 Sports (203), Wilhoite’s production could be limited by his supporting cast, but that was the case last year and he made all-region, anyway. Here are some video highlights of Wilhoite.
5. Kendrell Scurry
Independence, Jr., wide receiver, 6-3, 180
Scurry had nearly 1,000 yards receiving as a sophomore, and is a smooth, fluid runner with the ability to adjust to the ball in the air. He’s got the makings of a college star, and has even shown consistent ability to flatten defenders as a downfield blocker. He may be the most talented player in our rankings. Rivals and 247 Sports both gave him a four-star ranking, and the latter has him as the No. 71 player nationally in the 2017 class–but consistency has been the issue. Here are some video highlights of Scurry. Here are some video highlights of Scurry.
4. Jaylon King
Ensworth, Sr., quarterback, 6-0, 175
A few former NFL and college stars have acquired the nickname “The Human Joystick.” That’s a nickname that also fits King, an all-region pick last year, well. A quality passer and a dual-threat quarterback who had almost 2,200 combined yards in 2016. Rivals ranks him as a four-star prospect and the No. 211 player in America. He’s committed to Georgia Tech as a safety. Here are some video highlights of King.
3. T.J. Sheffield
Independence, Jr., wide receiver, 5-10, 175
Quick and shifty, Sheffield, who had 1,430 all-purpose yards and 18 TDs in 2016. He was used both as a wideout and out of the backfield. He mad the all-region team, and reports a 400-meter time of 50.02 seconds. Rivals ranks him as a three-star recruit and the No. 47 receiver in his class, while 247 Sports considers him a four-star recruit and the No. 210 player overall in the 2019 class. A Tennessee commitment, Sheffield is the half-brother of former Independence star Nate Johnson, a sophomore wide receiver at the University of Michigan. Here are some video highlights of Sheffield.
2. Camron Johnson
Brentwood Academy, Sr., wide receiver, 6-2, 185
Brentwood Academy coach Cody White says that Johnson might be the best receiver in the state. Recruiting services love him; he’s four-star prospect by both Rivals and 247 Sports. A Vanderbilt wide receiver commit, Johnson caught 47 passes for 796 yards and six touchdowns as a junior. He also showed the ability to make catches in traffic as well as play-making ability on special teams, and not just in the return game. Here are some video highlights of Johnson.
1. Dontae Smith
Spring Hill, Sr., running back, 5-11, 185
Smith had nearly 3,000 all-purpose yards as a junior, with 2,381 (and 24 touchdowns) coming on the ground. He has an innate ability to wait for the hole to develop, hit it quickly and then win the footrace from there. A three-star player and the No. 18 player in the state according to 247 Sports (Rivals ranks him as a two-star recruit), Smith is committed to Georgia Tech, where he’ll be an A-back in the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option attack. Here are some video highlights of Smith.
Tavion Fleming, Sr., WR, Centennial: Shift, fast, elusive and versatile, Fleming accounted for 1,049 all-purpose yards and seven TDs last year. Coach Matt Kriesky says he’s not coming off the field this year. That’s Fleming pictured to the left; see video of him here.
Justin Oden, Sr., WR, Spring Hill: A three-star recruit with multiple Southeastern Conference scholarship offers, Oden has both the speed to run away from defenses, and the strength to win contested one-on-one battles. See video of Oden here.
Noah Henderson, Sr., WR, CPA: A smooth play-maker who battled injuries last year, but managed 44 catches for 730 yards, anyway. See video of Henderson here. See video of Henderson here.
Parker Bullion, Sr., WR, Brentwood: A big, physical kid who can run over you or around you, Bullion caught 59 balls for 661 yards and four TDs last year. That’s Bullion to the right; see video of him here.
Jacob Van Landingham, QB, Page: Dual-threat QB who throws a good deep ball, and threw for 1,629 yards and ran for 611 more last year. See video of Van Landingham here.
Drew Martin, QB, BGA: One of the most polished passers in the area, Martin completed 179-of-291 passes for 2,450 yards and 23 TDs. He also ran for another 231 and two scores. See video of Martin here. See video of Martin here.
Also worth watching:
Kam Harris-Lusk, Jr., QB, Fairview
Carter Hendry, Sr., QB, Franklin
Darius James, Sr., RB, Fairview (transferred from Sycamore)
Jariel Wilson, Jr., RB, Centennial
Will “Bubba” Pierce, Soph., RB, Page
Brandon Wharton II, Jr., QB, Nolensville
Jeff Perez, Sr., K, Fairview
Disclaimer: In compiling this list, we considered players from our entire coverage area, which includes the following schools: Brentwood Academy, Battle Ground Academy, Brentwood High School, Centennial High School, Christ Presbyterian Academy, Ensworth, Fairview High School, Father Ryan High School, Franklin High School, Franklin Road Academy, Grace Christian Academy, Independence High School, Nolensville High School, Page High School, Ravenwood High School, Spring Hill High School, Summit High School. Although not all of these schools are within the boundaries of Williamson County, we know many of our parents have children at those schools and are interested in their sports programs; therefore, we consider all football players at these schools, despite what county they live in, for our Top 10 honors.