TAMPA – Niko Duffey exploded onto the scene at Jefferson as a sophomore.
The 5’10”, 165-pounder galloped his way to 1,103 total yards from scrimmage. A dynamic runner, Duffey had 107 carries for 950 yards and nine touchdowns averaging 8.9 yards per rush. He also had 11 catches for 153 yards and four kick returns for 104 yards.
Duffey has gained 15 lbs. since the end of last season. He’s seeking to reach the 170-175 pound range.
His first sniff of varsity football was as a freshman where he was called up late in the season.
Duffey didn’t earn any playing time, but he clearly figured out the step forward quickly.
He says after he got the feel of what varsity was like this past season that he gained the confidence that carried with him throughout the year.
District rival Jesuit knocked off the Dragons twice a year ago, 44-23 in the regular season and 42-21 in the Class 5A region semifinal. Duffey is looking for revenge.
“Our goal is to beat Jesuit. I’m saying that in the humblest way possible,” Duffey said. “We know we have some big games, but we are focused on that game a ton this season.”
Jefferson opens the season up on the road at Steinbrenner. It is a tough stretch after that with home clashes with Jesuit, Armwood and Hillsborough over the next five weeks of the season.
Senior quarterback Matt Gaffney takes over under center with Cade Weldon now in college at Miami. The most dynamic player on the roster is senior Jermaine Eskridge who plays both wide receiver and safety.
Duffey says he feels good about his squad.
“We got a young offensive line that is getting the job done,” he said. “We have athletes everywhere like Dontavious Smith and Justin McGriff. I think we should be pretty good this year.”
Starting his football career at age 6, Duffey has always been a running back. He runs track at Jefferson and is aiming to get faster, into the 4.40-second 40-yard dash range.
Duffey pointed to his speed to break outside and juke moves as his biggest strengths.
No offers or interest have come yet for the 2019 prospect. That should change awfully soon.
His head coach Jeremy Earle has been at Jefferson since 2006. He was the team’s offensive coordinator until he was promoted to head coach in 2011, one year after the program’s first state title. Earle has compiled a 42-25 record in six seasons there.
“I think that he’s [Earle] the best coach in Hillsborough County,” Duffey said. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s been coaching for a long time. He gets you on the right path and he knows what he’s talking about.”
Duffey says he hasn’t figured out what he plans to study in college yet, but he wants to make it to the pros. That is what he calls the big picture.
He has plenty of time to mull over his college major. Right now, the focus is to improve upon his breakout sophomore season. Duffey is a very talented runner and if he finds more ways to get involved in the passing game, then he’ll really turn some heads.
Favorite players to watch – Odell Beckham Jr., DeMarco Murray, Chris Rainey, Barry Sanders
Playlist before games – Lil Bucci, Lil Fo, NBA YoungBoy
Favorite TV shows – The Simpsons
Fun fact that you think nobody knows – “I’m a good drawer. I like to draw. I draw anything that I look at.”
Game film: Duffey’s Hudl tape
Photo credit: Big County Preps
Jake Perper is the founder of Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.