Football: Tampa Bay Area Buzz — Sept. 17, 2023

The Tampa Bay area has plenty of football talent now exceeding in college. Take a look at how some of the local legends are performing at the next level.  

Heisman watch

Last year, Michael Penix Jr. finished eighth in the Heisman ballot after throwing for 4,641 yards and 31 touchdowns while leading Washington to an 11-2 record and a No. 8 ranking in the AP poll. 

The former Tampa Bay Tech standout, who decided to return this season, is among the favorites for the trophy this season. 

His numbers through the first three games make him a leading candidate. 

On Saturday, Penix threw for 473 yards and four touchdowns, nearly all of which came in the first half of a 41-0 victory over Michigan State.

He now has thrown for 1,332 yards and 12 touchdowns so far this season. 

National spotlight

Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton started the season by getting family bragging rights with a win over Toledo and older brother Jerjaun Newton. 

Jer’Zhan, a former star at Clearwater Central Catholic, followed that up by recording two sacks in a loss to Kansas. 

His ability to make plays had a national audience on Saturday against Penn State. Not only did Jer’Zhan block a field goal, but he continued to cause disruption in the backfield. Still, it was not enough to keep the Nittany Lions from winning 30-13. 

Record setter

Mount Union quarterback Braxton Plunk, a former star at Plant City, set the school record for career completions with 947, surpassing the mark previously held by Bill Borchert, a two-time all-american who played for the Raiders from 1994-97. 

Fast start

Joquez Smith, who rushed for more than 5,000 yards during his high school career at Jesuit, has already made an impact for Temple as a true freshman. 

Against Norfolk State, Smith provided a spark to the Owls’ ground game, rushing for 142 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in a 41-9 victory. 

His touchdown run came on a 51-yard burst. Smith also scored on a 15-yard reception. 

What a kick

Two weeks ago, Notre Dame’s Spencer Shrader set the school record for the longest field goal by nailing a 54-yarder in a win against North Carolina. 

Shrader starred at Newsome and played at USF before transferring this offseason. 

Local quarterback matchup

A pair of former area quarterbacks squared off last week when James Madison took on Virginia. 

Jordan McCloud (Plant) had the better result, throwing for 224 yards and the game-winning touchdown to lead the Dukes to a 36-35 victory.

The comeback spoiled the starting debut for true freshman Anthony Colandrea (Lakewood), who ended up with 377 yards and two touchdowns passing for the Cavaliers. 

End zones

Three local products – Gaither’s Andrew Kilfoyl and Donovan Jennings and Calvary Christian’s Mike Lofton – started on USF’s offensive line in Saturday’s nationally televised game against Alabama….Former Tampa Bay Tech standout David Allen was named the SIAC Player of the Week after throwing for 370 yards and two touchdowns in Allen’s 24-17 season-opening victory over Erksine….Toledo’s Jerjuan Newton (CCC) has a touchdown reception in each of the first three games….Western Carolina’s Censere Lee (Clearwater) had three receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Eastern Kentucky.