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FAB FIVE: the breakout stars

Published 9:44am Thursday, July 24, 2014

In The Outlook’s first installment of its Fab Five lists, we’ll take a look at the five players we feel are most poised for a breakout season in 2014.
Any of the players on this list could be an unheralded force that not enough people know about, an impact player who is ready to make the leap for his team or a little-known prospect who is about to be thrust into a starring role for his team.
Either way, if the athletes on this list are able to explode onto the scene, they could pay dividends in a big way for their respective squads during the 2014 season.
Without further ado, here are The Outlook’s choices for the five breakout players of 2014:

5. Shakerian Hayes, RB/DB, Central – Coosa County
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 180 pounds
2013 stats: 185 rushing yards, four TDs
The low down: In Rockford,  the Cougars appear to have found a semblance of stability. However, while the team fields depth at a handful of positions, particularly runningback,  Coach Richard Bell’s bunch is starved for a playmaker to step to the forefront alongside Tre Royal.
Enter Shakerian Hayes. An ankle injury limited him to only three games in 2013, but during that brief window, Hayes scored four times on the ground, and had a pick-six on defense. Hayes is probably the most talented player in the Cougars backfield, and a big year from him can help add a punch to the offense.

4. Michael Miller, WR, Dadeville
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 170 pounds
2013 stats: 328 receiving yards, five total TDs
The low down: As the most statistically productive  receiver returning for DHS, Miller is going to be the veteran target for either Shawn Jennings or Cal Jones. Inside Dadeville’s break-neck offense, Miller is liable to line up on the outside, the slot, the backfield, at returner and pretty much anywhere else that DHS can get him on the field.
As a shifty possession receiver who thrives in yards after catch situations, Miller is poised to stuff the stat sheet for a team that – thanks to the departure of all-everything quarterback C.J. Tolbert – is likely to maximize every playmaker they have in the fold this year. Of the Tigers’ typically potent artillery, Miller is the team’s most versatile weapon of defensive destruction.

3. Drew Hill, QB/RB, Horseshoe Bend
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 165 pounds
2013 stats: 413 rushing yards, five TDs
The low down: A lot of people were in the process of finding out more about what the Generals already knew it had at runningback, but an injury in Horseshoe Bend’s win over Thorsby on Sept. 27 derailed a promising season for Hill. At the time of his injury – he missed six games – the sophomore was leading all area runners in yards on the ground.
Now, Hill is healthy and projects to be the triggerman in Horseshoe Bend’s newly-installed Wing-T offense. Word in New Site indicates that thus far in the spring and summer, the team has acclimated outstandingly to the new offensive set. With Hill returning, the Generals can feel a bit more comfortable knowing that one of its most explosive weapons – provided he stays healthy – will have the ball in his hands on every play.

2. Cody Martin, RB/DB, Reeltown
Height: 5’6”
Weight: 148 pounds
2013 stats: 878 rushing yards, six TDs
The low down: If you know about RHS football, then you know that somehow, someway, they are going to get it done on the ground. What the Reeltown faithful didn’t know last year, was that All-State athlete Ariko Stewart wouldn’t be the one driving the Rebels’ rushing attack in 2013. With Stewart and other Rebels bitten by the injury bug last season, the dynamic Martin stepped to the plate and ended up third among all area rushers in terms of yards.
Now, the secret’s out on Martin, Reeltown’s sophomore speed demon who can hit paydirt from anywhere on the field. With a healthy Stewart set to bring the thunder back to the Reeltown backfield, a mostly in-tact offense returning from 2013, and the Rebels’ traditional commitment to the run, don’t be surprised if Martin – along with Stewart – cracks 1,000 yards on the ground for Reeltown High School as it looks to bounce back from a so-so season by its standards.

1. Chase Burton, RB, Benjamin Russell
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 165 pounds
2013 stats: 132 rushing yards,  six TDs
The low down: Most fans who saw Burton in 2013 probably recognize him as one of the goal-line specialists for the Wildcats last season.  However, with no LaBrenikin Johnson ahead of him and a new quarterback – either Cole Grogan or Tyre Gray – to help ease into the offense, if anyone has a chance to spearhead the typical run-first approach Coach Danny Horn employs with his teams, it’s the hard-running Burton.
Horn has cited Burton as one of the more impressive Wildcats during the offseason, and the junior runningback was a standout performer during the Maroon versus White spring game. Burton, who has no frills about his style of running, was a handful in the spring game, as it took multiple players to bring him down on several occasions.
If Burton continues to be effective against the Wildcats’ arduous slate, BRHS will have itself a formidable clock-controller to lean on in the backfield.
Next up on The Outlook’s Fab Five list: the most anticipated games of the 2014 season.