OFFENSE: Quarterback C.J. Bennett was the face of the Ravens offense the past two seasons, leaving senior quarterback Dylan Fisher big shoes to fill. However, he won't have to do it alone. Fisher will have sure-handed receiver Franklin Mosely to throw to and a ground game to compliment the passing game led by one of the fastest tailbacks in the county in Brandon Holloway.
DEFENSE: First-year head coach Lee Meitzler, a former defensive coordinator at Jefferson, expects the defense to carry the team while the offense continues to gel. A new defensive scheme doesn't change opponents' game plans because it still starts up front with Division I prospect defensive end Anthony Chickillo. What will make it difficult for opponents to game plan is the ability to move Chickillo around in the new scheme. Senior linebacker Vaughn Johnson and another Division I prospect defensive back Tyree Clark rounds out the three-tiered attack.
OUTLOOK: Meitzler is amping up the conditioning after noticing the number of fourth-quarter dropoffs last season.
"I've told them they've got to finish," Meitzler said. "I asked them how many games were they ahead in the third and fourth quarter. I told them they were ahead or tied in seven games and they won four of those games. That's not going to happen this year. We're going to finish it. That's been our motto."
ON OFFENSE: New Hawks offensive coordinator Evan Davis plans to emphasize the ground game more in 2010, which means heralded junior Matt Jones could be the area's breakout player as he'll get plenty of chances to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. However, with a four-year varsity starter back at quarterback in senior Josh Grady and a few talented weapons on the outside, led by senior A.J. King, the Hawks certainly won't be one-dimensional. King, who suffered a knee sprain in the Kickoff Classic, will miss the start of the season. The key for Armwood will be the offensive line, according to Hawks coach Sean Callahan. The unit, led by juniors Cody Waldrop and Cameron Dees, averages 280 pounds, and if the group can play up to its potential, the offense could produce huge numbers.
ON DEFENSE: Armwood has routinely produced one of the area's top defensive units, and this year's group should be no different. The linebacker corps is the strongest on the unit, with four players who saw significant action in 2009 - Jacob Zilbar, D.J. Hitchman, Harvelio Buie and Eric Striker - occupying the starting roles in the Hawks 3-4 scheme. While the defensive line returns only one starter in senior David Tinsley, Callahan is high on both the newcomers to the starting unit, Sheldon Lewinson and Wiregrass Ranch transfer Brandon Teeling. The secondary, led by safeties Leon McQuay and Jermaine McKinney, should be improved this season, as well.
OUTLOOK: Along with being considered the favorite to win the Class 4A-District 9 title, the Hawks should be considered a contender for the Class 4A state crown. Callahan has said this team is equally as talented - if not more so - than the Armwood teams that won consecutive Class 4A state titles in 2003 and 2004. The performance in the trenches will determine just how strong the Hawks will be, but so long as they stay healthy and play disciplined, they should be around until the end.
OFFENSE: Led by some three-year starters, including wideout/defensive back Nelson Agholor, quarterback Destin Nichols has some experienced receivers to throw to. Juniors Tyler Davis and Reggie Barnes provide tall targets for Nichols, and Agholor's versatility makes for an unpredictable offense. Helping the unit this year will be wideout Christian Hardegree and an offensive line anchored by seniors Chase Carmichael and Speros Theofilos. Twin brothers Richard and Rob Klein are back from injury to help out at running back.
DEFENSE: Agholor, Barnes and Davis pull double duty, starting on defense, too. Agholor's speed accents a strong secondary. Versatile lineman Max Burke joins Davis and Barnes. Junior Schyler Miles headlines the linebackers corps.
OUTLOOK: Coming off a playoff season, the Buccaneers are focusing on finishing. Last season in the three games Berkeley lost, the Bucs were tied with their opponent at halftime.
"Our motto this summer has been on the fourth quarter and finishing," Agholor said. "We are limited bodies wise, but that hasn't stopped anybody else. I know many teams have done some great things with slim numbers because all the guys in that program buy into the system to finish, to be conditioned.
"We've done enough here so that fourth quarter should feel like the first quarter."
ON OFFENSE: Senior quarterback Eugene Davenport enters his third season as a starting quarterback, coming off a junior campaign that ended with 899 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions on 67-of-126 completions. He also led the team in rushing with 237 yards and one touchdown.
"He comes a long way," Hubbard said. "He understands he has an opportunity to go to (college). I told him the things he did at quarterback last year, he can't do this year."
The offense will rely on Davenport's throwing and running ability, but Hubbard is hoping someone will emerge as a premier running back.
ON DEFENSE: Senior Mike Moore returns as starting linebacker and Marquise Kelly, a receiver last season, will see more time on defense in the secondary.
"We want to cause turnovers and make tackles," Hubbard said. "(Moore) is a competitor. He's a hard hitter. Kelly can be a threat on both sides of the ball."
OUTLOOK: Blake's lone win of the season last year came against district foe Dixie Hollins. The Yellow Jackets won, 14-13. Fortunately, Blake graduated only four seniors from last year's team, although one of those players from University of Florida signee Michael McFarland.
"We're still a little young," Hubbard said.
Blake's schedule offers no easy opponents, but if the younger players progress through the season, the Yellow Jackets should more than double their win total from last season.
ON OFFENSE: The strong points are the bookend offensive tackles - seniors Christian Kerr (6-5, 280) and Jake Smith (6-3, 257) - that have all-county potential. Protection will be paramount for new quarterback, junior David Dittfeld, last season's starter on the junior varsity. Bloomingdale employs a spread offense, which attempts to move the ball vertically and stretch the defenders. The Bulls return capable receivers in big-play junior Sean Minnifield and senior Donny Suchan. Candidates abound in the backfield and Coach John Booth is searching for a primary ball-carrier.
ON DEFENSE: There are four returning starters on the defensive line, including senior Nick Wolfe (5-5, 193), who makes up for his smallish stature with quickness and an aggressive nature. Senior Zach Vath (5-11, 205), a converted defensive lineman who has lost about 55 pounds since last season, has shifted to middle linebacker. Junior defensive back TeShawn Mitchell has emerged as the secondary's top performer.
OUTLOOK: There's nowhere to go but up for the Bulls after last season's 0-10 finish, but Booth said he believes a major turnaround can be achieved. At one point last season, the Bulls had four freshmen starters. "We learned on the fly, but we got tons of experience," Booth said. "I think we're going to be much, much better." Of course, many previous Bloomingdale teams were filled with preseason optimism. But only one (2008) reached the playoffs and registered a winning record. "The key is believing in yourself and knowing that the only people you can listen to are the ones in our locker room," Booth said. "For this to be a special year, we have to show up every week and play to our capabilities. I believe we can do just that."
ON OFFENSE: The Eagles have plenty of offensive depth - enough to employ a two-quarterback system and utilize three rotating players in the backfield. Coach John Lima said senior Josh Celerin and junior Alan Knippel will share time at quarterback. Senior Darius Lee, last season's leading rusher, is back, but Brandon will also use senior Shawn Council and junior Tyrell Garner in ball-carrying roles. The receivers are seniors Reggie Roach and B.J. Dawkins. Senior receiver Travis Covington, who suffered a serious knee injury in the spring game, isn't expected back until mid-season at the earliest. Lima said he is "very pleased" with the work of his offensive line and expects that unit to be a strong point.
ON DEFENSE: The Eagles must replace standout linebacker Sean Watson (and also compensate for his absence on the other side of the ball, where he played receiver). Sophomore Jesse Chesnut has displayed great potential at linebacker. But look for Brandon's defensive muscle to revolve around its defensive line, where Council and junior Cory Mustain are the key names. Versatile junior D'Andre Franklin might shift between multiple defensive positions, according to Lima.
OUTLOOK: The Eagles occupy Class 5A-District 7 with Tampa Bay Tech, Freedom and Wharton, so making the playoffs will be challenging. But Lima, after last season's 3-7 finish, said the Eagles have matured into a team that is "capable of beating anyone on our schedule." Brandon appears to have several offensive playmakers, so the team's direction could be decided by the defense's progress. "I feel good about our team," Lima said. "And I don't really consider us to have a starting lineup. We are creating a lot of competition and it's going to be who plays best."
ON OFFENSE: The Lancers must do a better job of cashing in with offensive opportunities, according to Coach Bob Dare. Senior Michael McDermott takes over as the team's exclusive quarterback after the transfer of Hayden Kelley to Gaither (primarily for baseball). McDermott's top target in the spread attack is sophomore wide receiver Damarcus Faison (6-5, 185), while sophomore receiver Robbie Robertson is expected to make a heavy contribution. Junior Daniel Hamilton and sophomore Brandon Park are the top backfield candidates.
ON DEFENSE: Hamilton (team-leading 136 tackles last season) will be the pace-setter at middle linebacker. Dare is encouraged by the defensive line, led by sophomore Matt Bass, senior Daniel Jimenez and senior Jonathan Cuthbertson. Robertson and Faison are the secondary's key players.
OUTLOOK: Dare is hoping for a better start. Last season, the Lancers broke out of the gate at 1-3 (getting outscored 101-20 in that four-game stretch) before finishing 4-6 overall. Faison could be one of the most electrifying talents in Class 1B-District 5, but the Lancers must develop a few more weapons to compete against frontrunners such as Lakeland Victory Christian and Admiral Farragut. A winning season is a very achievable goal for Cambridge Christian.
CARROLLWOOD DAY SCHOOL
ON OFFENSE: Patriots coach Lane McLaughlin admits there are some major holes to fill on the CDS offense. "We lost four guys from last season who caught at least 20 passes," McLaughlin said. One of them is junior Deuce Gruden, who has shifted from slot receiver to quarterback. But look for plenty of new wrinkles. Gruden's father, the former Super Bowl-winning coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs, has been added to the CDS staff. McLaughlin said he already has worked wonders with the offensive line, which could be exceptional, especially considering senior offensive tackle Mak Djulbegovic (6-6, 250) and freshman Adonis Welch (6-5, 235). Junior Dillon Floyd is expected to become the go-to receiver, while speedy sophomore Robert Davis should assume the primary ball-carrier role (taking over for college-bound Darius Bing, perhaps the best player in the school's brief football history).
ON DEFENSE: McLaughlin has listed improved run defense as one of his team's primary goals. The Patriots have the makings of a promising defensive line with Djulbegovic, sophomore Max Orr (a former junior-varsity player at Freedom) and junior Cole Kavanaugh. Senior Markeith Kilgo, a transfer from King, will assume middle-linebacker duties. The CDS secondary has playmakers in Floyd, who had three interceptions in last season's bowl game, and sophomore Andy Embody.
OUTLOOK: The Patriots, entering their third season of 11-man football, made major strides last season with a 9-1 mark. McLaughlin said the Patriots hope to be playing in a district by next season. For now, CDS must be content with earning one of the four playoff spots in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference. It might be difficult to repeat last season's 9-1 record, but the talent level and participation at CDS has never been higher.
ON OFFENSE: Coach Joe Severino has been known as an almost exclusive wing-T coach, but this year he plans to mix in some spread. Senior quarterback Thadeus Baxley will line up in both sets while quarterback Mitchell Norden will step in for the occasional play. Chief quarterbacks will have three tall targets at receiver, including Will Whiteside, DWyane (cq) Richardson and Kelvon (cq) Powell. Running backs are also plentiful with Xavier Johnson, Shantavious Heyward and Isaiah Hobbs. The offensive line has good size (averaging about 250 pounds), quickness and depth with Derek Venegas, Gerald Vickers, Norman Sherman, Chris Alvarez, Joe Castellano, Anthony Requeno, Jose Morero and Tariq Quasem, a junior who tips the scales at 340 pounds. The Chiefs have also added a strong kicker to the mix with Neal MacInnes, who was plucked from the soccer team.
ON DEFENSE: Linebacker Reshay Hubbard said the Chiefs defense will be among the county's best, and Hubbard may prove to be correct. With the addition of former Tampa Bay Buc and Wharton head coach Richard Wood as the defensive coordinator, the Chiefs are focused and feeling prepared. One drawback, albeit slight, could be that several offensive linemen will rotate to play both ways, including Venegas, Morero, Sherman and Requeno. Tim Wright is expected to be a steady contributor on the defensive line. The linebackers are solid with Hubbard in the middle, flanked by Carlin Scott and Tevin Ordenez. The last line of defense is held up by defensive backs Devin Williams, George Williams and Jermaine Gilyard.
OUTLOOK: There is little doubt the Chiefs will be improved from last season's 1-9 campaign. The reasons for the improvement are many, including the fact that Severino had more than a month (as he did last year) to prepare his team. The addition of Wood and several other assistants is also significant. The team also is much healthier heading into this season, particularly in the cases of Baxley and Hubbard who struggled last season with nagging leg injuries.
ON OFFENSE: Starting quarterback Je'Twan Smith, a three-year starter, returns for his final season, but the Cougars don't have much help around him coming back from 2009. Senior Jarvis Scott, who showed some flashes late last season, steps in as the No. 1 option at tailback this season. Senior C.J. Griffin has moved from the defensive line over to tight end, and Chris Ham, Patrick Frazier and Zach Hooper, a collection of up-and-comers, comprise the starting receivers corps. The offensive line is extremely young, but Coach Mike Gottman believes he has a nucleus of tough, good players, and how fast they come along will be the key to the Cougars' success.
ON DEFENSE: The Cougars were hit hard on this side of the ball by graduation, but they do have some strength up front with returning starters Daivonte Lumpkin and Josh Halferty, who led the team in sacks last season. Mike Stephens is the lone returner in the secondary.
OUTLOOK: The Cougars are thin with about 40 players on the varsity roster, so depth is certainly a concern and remaining healthy is of the utmost importance. But Coach Mike Gottman is confident with how he was able to fill all the holes that were evident during the spring, and he believes the Cougars can be competitive. The key will be the start of the season. Durant opens with Gaither (preseason), Chamberlain and Brandon, all on the road, and the Cougars need to get the 2010 season started on a positive note to gain some confidence.
ON OFFENSE: The Indians have run their offense through the wishbone formation for over a decade and they won't stop now. Arthur Jacobs takes over at quarterback and Tyrell Edwards, who saw limited time last season, will start at running back.
"He's hard-nosed and very physical," Thornton said of Edwards.
Bruising fullback Josh Hudson also returns, along with offensive lineman Tevin Franklin. Senior Dante Evans will share carries with Edwards in the backfield.
ON DEFENSE: Thornton said the defense will run a 4-4 formation. Junior linebacker Keionne Baines, who had 47 tackles last season, will be one of East Bay's players to watch on defense, as will sophomore Trevon Graham. Junior Brian Warnock will lead the secondary at free safety. Although he will primarily be used on offense, Thornton said Edwards could see time at linebacker.
OUTLOOK: East Bay got off to a strong start last season going 2-0, but lost four of its next five games. Still, the Indians finished on a good note, winning two of its final three games to reach .500 on the season.
East Bay plays in 4A-9 with three others team, but two of them happen to be perennial powerhouses Armwood and Hillsborough, which beat the Indians a combined 113-27.
ON OFFENSE: Senior quarterback Dominic Marino, who transferred from Leto in the spring, threw for 706 yards, three touchdowns and 11 interceptions as a junior. He also rushed for 110 yards. He will replace Tyler Guy, who decided to walk-on the USF football team as a tight end. Dustin Rauh and Tyrel Nunn will share the load at running back and Robby Lohnes returns as the team's No. 1 receiver. "Ball control [is key]," Coach Tchecoy Blount said. "We'll establish a running game with short passes." Blount said senior linebacker Keith Lewis will also be used at running back.
ON DEFENSE: Lewis, considered one of the top recruits in Florida, is the Patriots' biggest weapon on defense. Lewis, who has been offered by Southern California, Auburn, Oregon, and Tennessee, was the team's second-leading tackler last season. Josh and Isaac Tanner will join him at the linebacker position in Freedom's 3-4 formation. Lohnes will lead the secondary at defensive back. "We need to tackle," Blount said. "We have to be swarming. We have to minimize broken tackles."
OUTLOOK: Freedom went 7-3 last season, the best record in program history. The Patriots reached the Class 5A region playoffs, but fell to Countryside in the quarterfinals. Although standout linebacker Anthony Harrell transferred to Jesuit during the summer, the Patriots have to be happy with the amount of talent they return, which is certainly enough to reach the postseason for a consecutive season.
OFFENSE: Last year, the Cowboys had a problem catching the ball and an offseason of 7-on-7 work has helped in improving that effort. In their spread offensive scheme, led by quarterback Shug Oyegunle, the Cowboys will mix in the run, with a running back by committee approach. Vu Le, Devonta Martin and Joel Paredes will all get turns at running the ball. Gaither's still young on offense, but more mature this season with several players with a lot of starts under their belts, including receivers Zach Condon, John Pernes, Josh Bultron.
DEFENSE: Gaither returns six starters. The secondary is young, but the linebackers corps with juniors Josh Scarberry and Levon Brookins ranks up there with some of the top units in the county. On the line, nose tackle Angel Alvarez and defensive end Xavier Wynn return. Looking for another defensive end to step up with three guys vying for that starting spot, but all should get playing time with a heavy rotation.
OUTLOOK: Quarterbacks have to lead, but who is going to listen to a ninth grader. That was the dilemma Gaither head coach Mark Kantor faced last season with a raw but talented freshman quarterback Oyegunle. Kantor doesn't have reservations this season.
"It was very hard for me to start a freshman quarterback because two things can happen and both are bad," Kantor said. "One, he can lose confidence very quickly and two, you throw a lot of picks and then all he knows how to do is throw a lot of picks. That last game against Newsome, we said you're going to be our man and he performed. And of course he performed in the spring and in the 7-on-7. He has grown and developed."
ON OFFENSE: Following the record-setting passing career of Tarean Austin, two juniors - Durant transfer Jeremy Agrinzonis and 2009 junior varsity standout Apoleon Moore - are vying to take over the quarterback spot for the Terriers. Whoever is under center, they need to need to find a way to get the ball into the hands of senior receiver Charles Lovett, who last season hauled in 44 passes for more than 1,100 yards. Anchored by senior guard Andre Gunn, Hillsborough should be solid on the offensive line but the Terriers will be breaking in new ball carriers with tailbacks Tim Randolph and Jeremiah Green and Eric Bass and fullback Rodney Williams, who will see double duty at linebacker. Another two-way player in the backfield is senior Jamie Knott, who is the No. 1 fullback.
ON DEFENSE: The good news is the Terriers look to have one of their best defensive units in years. The down side is this unit is not very deep, at least not to start the season. Williams, a transfer from Spoto, is a big addition to the defense. Hillsborough will also get a big boost with the return of defensive end Reggie Johnson, who is back from a series of injuries that limited his playing time last fall, Nick Morrow, who plays the other end along with linebackers Gerald Pearson, Jalen Hill and Nigel Harris. Junior standout Earl Moore anchors the defensive line at nose guard. Senior punter/place kicker Mattias Ciabatti is expected to be one of the area's best at both positions and a Division I recruit.
OUTLOOK: The Terriers are once again fighting with perennial power Armwood for playoff spots in Class 4A-District 9, along with King and East Bay. If Hillsborough's defense can carry the load early in the season and avoid injuries, coach Earl Garcia and his squad should again make the playoffs. The question is: how far can this team go once it reaches the postseason?
"We need our defense to help us out until our offense gets some time under the lights," Garcia said. "We've got a good group of coachable kids. And we have some talent at key positions. We can be as good as we want to be but we're going to have to work hard for it."
ON OFFENSE: The Dragons, who averaged 34 points per game in 2009, should have one of the area's most formidable offenses again this season. Senior quarterback Quentin Williams, the state's reigning Class 3A player of the year, is back under center, and his two favorite targets - seniors Andre Davis and Chris Moore - are back as well. Add in the return of the top two rushers from last season (Demetrious Russell and LaDarius Moye), a talented tight end (Ramik Wilson) and an offensive line that returns four of five starters (led by seniors Manny Cromuel and Kevin Reeves) and teams certainly have their hands full in trying to figure out a way to slow down this juggernaut.
ON DEFENSE: Jefferson should be very strong this season with 10 starters returning from the 2009 squad. Junior edge rusher Tyriq McCord highlights those back on the defensive line. Seniors Christian Calle, second on the team last year in tackles, and Ramik Wilson, the team's sack leader last season, anchor the linebacker corps. And seniors Rodney Mills, Rashad Dunnigan and Brandon Simmons lead a talented secondary.
OUTLOOK: There's no question the Dragons are among the top teams in the area. They should be considered the favorite to repeat as Class 3A-District 8 champs, and are a contender for a state title. So long as they can remain healthy and avoid getting complacent, this team certainly is capable of making some noise the season.
ON OFFENSE: Harrell said he wants to implement an aggressive offensive strategy. "We will be in an attack mindset," he said. Senior Patton Chillura will take over at quarterback, replacing current USF walk-on Bobby Eveld. Protecting Chillura will be 6-foot-7, 270 pound lineman Arturo Uzdavinis. Harrell said junior Aaron Paulson will also play quarterback and receiver and Eveld's younger brother, Tommy, could also enter the rotation at quarterback. Senior running back Miles Bennett will be the featured back and will split some carries with 6-2, 220 pounder Anthony Harrell.
"Our playbook will be flexible," Harrell said. "We'll run some I-formation, spread, wishbone, we'll run multiple formations. We'll run to set up the pass."
ON DEFENSE: Harrell said he'll run a 4-3, 3-4 and 3-3-5 formation on defense, which will be led by Harrell, a linebacker who owns nearly two dozen Division I scholarship offers, namely West Virginia, USF and Wake Forest. Jesuit's frontline will be led by defensive linemen Cameron Ruff, Isaac Edwards and Robby Garcia and Travis Allen. Joining Harrell at linebacker will be Brad Black and Brian lee Patterson. The secondary unit will be led by Matthew Alexander, Reggie Brown and Derrick Friga.
OUTLOOK: Harrell takes over a program that went 9-2 and reached the Class 2A region playoffs, eventually losing to Hardee in the quarterfinals, 49-21. "The guys are really starting to adjust (to me)," he said. "They're buying into what we're teaching." In addition to leading Jesuit to another postseason run, Harrell also wants to upload the program's win streak against rival Jesuit.
"It's extremely important to me (to keep the streak going)," Harrell said. "There are two things for us and that is to win district and beat TC, everything else will take care of itself."
ON OFFENSE: The Lions, who return seven starters, believe they have the most depth at the skill positions, and they are very high on two - senior Reese Sturgis and junior Chris Murray. Coach Alvin Davis plans to utilize Sturgis at receiver, running back and quarterback (in a Wildcat formation), and Murray is his "carbon copy" and likely will contribute in a similar role. Junior quarterback Greg Windham, as third-year varsity starter whom Davis calls one of the most underappreciated signal callers in the area, also is back in the fold, and senior Shawn Hibbert, who came on strong at the end of last season and had a good showing in the spring, will be the primary ball carrier.
ON DEFENSE: The Lions have the benefit of nine returning starters, and Davis is particularly high on the linebacker corps, which includes Tavis Campbell, Austin Cox and Darrell Baker. The coach wants to see that group get more involved this season and is counting on them to make a lot of big plays. Sophomore Reggie Butler is a young defensive lineman to keep an eye on.
OUTLOOK: The Lions haven't had a winning season since 2001, but this group might have enough to reach their goal of changing that this season. There are some big challenges, but there certainly is a chance for the Lions to grab six wins. Making the postseason, another goal, will be extremely a tough, however. To do that King would have to knock off one of two perennial county powers - either Armwood or Hillsborough - in Class 4A-District 9 play.
ON OFFENSE: The Longhorns plan to run the spread much of the time, which makes some sense with versatile quarterback Fred Porter at the helm. Porter's main targets will be Mitch Harley and K.G. Green. The featured back will be Tevin Abbney, who is on the small side (5-foot-8, 163 pounds), but is quick and shifty. The offensive line also isn't overly large (averaging about 200 pounds), but they are pretty quick and aggressive. Omar Jones, Calvin Benton and Abraham Esteva anchor the front.
ON DEFENSE: Look for the Longhorns to swarm to the ball and hit hard and often. Leading the charge is junior linebacker David Sanders, who is among the county's best. Sanders will be flanked by Greg Doss and Daniel Faison, who have above-average quickness. Jesus Orendain and Esteva are the leaders up front. Strong safety Curtis Davis is probably the most improved player, giving the Longhorns a solid last line of defense.
OUTLOOK: Coach George Edington believes this team is improved from last year's squad that finished 3-6. Overall team speed is good, but depth is not. For Lennard to have success it needs to stay healthy. If the Longhorns stay healthy and keep mistakes to a minimum, an outstanding season is not out of the question.
OFFENSE: It's a whole new game for the Falcons with a new coaching staff. Former Clearwater Central Catholic head coach Mike Jalazo brings an offensive scheme that spreads things around, putting the ball into a lot of different hands. Sophomore quarterback Colby Robinson will have plenty of targets, including senior tight ends David McPherson and Jahmeire Caldwell. Athlete Jaylon Davis has the versatility to play a variety of positions, including quarterback. It all starts up front with a beefy offensive line, led by junior Cody Sharp and senior Robert Ashphall.
DEFENSE: Caldwell leads a strong linebackers corps, while senior defensive back Giovani Gustave and junior defensive back Tito Salcedo bring the speed in the secondary. Because of their small numbers, conditioning will be key with many of the Falcons starters having to play both ways.
OUTLOOK: Jalazao hasn't had a losing season since his first year at Admiral Farragut in 1999. His worst seasons at CCC, the Crusaders still finished .500. So taking over a program that hasn't had a winning season in 11 years has been challenging to say the least. But Jalazo welcomes the challenge and wouldn't mind proving the doubters wrong. "We like where we're going," Jalazo said. "I think we are going to surprise some people."
ON OFFENSE: Junior Aaron Midthus will start at quarterback after backing up Florida A&M commitment Willie Clay last season. Middleton also graduated three running backs and a starting receiver, but Stokes said seniors Anthony Thomas and Denerio Dooley have shown they can handle carrying the ball.
ON DEFENSE: Middleton's defense will be its strongest unit this year. The Tigers return starting defensive tackle Matt Parker, defensive end Demetree Taylor and strong safety John Taylor. Demetree Taylor, a Division I recruit, led the Tigers with 11 sacks last season. Parker missed half the season with a torn meniscus.
OUTLOOK: Middleton fell short of reaching the playoffs last season and finished 5-5 overall. Although paired with the smaller public schools in the county, its district includes Jesuit and Robinson. Robinson reached the 2A state semifinals last season.
ON OFFENSE: The Wolves' Wing-T should be a formidable formation once again this year with the return of senior fullback Conner Powers, the team's leading rusher each of the past two seasons. Powers' younger brother, Keller, also will get his fair share of carries, while Vince Pennington, who filled in admirably last season when Conner Powers went down with a knee injury midway through the year, should be in the mix as well. Coach Ken Hiscock always is seeking better play from the offensive line, but the biggest question mark might be under center, where sophomore Will Worth steps in. However, Hiscock already has expressed tremendous confidence in the youngster's abilities, calling him the best quarterback he's seen during his tenure with the program.
ON DEFENSE: The strength of this unit lies in the middle, where senior linebacker Joe Worth, an all-district performer in 2009, is back leading the way. The defensive line took a hit from graduation, but Cole Rector returns after tallying three sacks in 2009. The secondary had some troubles last year against passing teams but does have some players back in the fold, including Kyle Stallings and Zach Billingham, who each finished 2009 with two interceptions.
OUTLOOK: The Wolves return a deep, experience senior class, one that has been a part of consecutive district championship teams. Winning a third straight district crown is definitely possible. Newsome's top competition in the Class 5A-District 6 race should come from Plant City, last year's district runner-up. Newsome will be tested early with consecutive games against county heavyweights Armwood and Jefferson to start the season, but that also gives the Wolves the opportunity to set a positive tone with some strong performances.
OFFENSE: The Panthers don't return many starters, but two are critical to the offense's success. Quarterback and Alabama commit Phillip Ely enters his second full-time season as a starter. He brings a 19-0 record as a starting quarterback with him. Offensive lineman Tony Posada, who recently verbally committed to Michigan, anchors a rebuilding offensive line. All-around athlete James Wilder is coming off a 1000-yard rushing season and is complimented in the backfield by junior Antonio Crawford, who really came on in the spring with the versatility to fill a void left by Allen Sampson. Receivers Scott Greacen and Tampa Catholic transfer Austin Aikens have emerged as Ely's go-to guys.
DEFENSE: Wilder, who led the county last season with 19 sacks, sets the tone up front and it's a nasty tone. The FSU commit creates a lot of havoc and makes life miserable for opposing quarterbacks. Senior linebacker Matt Suarez is the other returning starter on defense, while senior defensive back Eric Patterson has emerged as a playmaker in the secondary.
OUTLOOK: A flurry of national rankings hasn't changed the Panthers focus. That focus is necessary given Plant's first of the season that features four-consecutive games against playoff teams, including a road trip to Abilene, Texas. "We can't start slow and start going downhill," Wilder said. "We definitely got our wakeup call against Jefferson [in the spring]. Everybody got the taste of that loss in the mouth and nobody wants to experience that anymore."
ON OFFENSE: There is a ton of potential for the Raiders on this side of the ball this season, especially with the return of several of the unit's best standouts from 2009. At the top of that list is junior quarterback Bennie Coney, who is emerging as one of the area's stars in the Class of 2012. Coney went through a rigorous summer of passing camps and believes he will be much improved. Junior running back Dazmond Patterson, a 1,000-yard back last season, leads the ground attack, which will work behind an experienced offensive line that features seniors Mike York and Notre Dame commit Jordan Prestwood.
ON DEFENSE: While the offense gets most of the attention, the Raiders should be strong on this side of the ball, as well. Linebackers Art Knight, the team's leading tackler in 2009, and Joseph Benton, who had a team best eight sacks last season, lead a group that features nine returning starters. Sam Green, Antwon Armstrong and Javonte Sykes, who combined for nine interceptions last season, return in the secondary.
OUTLOOK: A Class 5A playoff team, the Raiders certainly have the talent capable of making a return trip to the postseason. They also should challenge Newsome for the Class 5A-District 6 title. One player certainly worth keeping an eye on is Coney, the quarterback. If he progresses as expected and can limit the turnovers (something that has plagued the offense each of the last two years), the Raiders have the capability of being a very dangerous team.
ON OFFENSE: The Sharks are going to be counting on a lot of new faces this season. Senior P.J. Mullins steps in at quarterback, and he's one of just three seniors in a starting role on this side of the ball. Joining Mullins is fullback Drake Pickford and center Justin Tew, the lone returner on the offensive line. Juniors Steven Maines and Daryl Gibson and sophomores Lasander Washington and Chase McCoy will comprise the backfield-by-committee. Athletic tight end Jamal Miles represents the top target in the passing game.
ON DEFENSE: The Sharks have just three starters back on what will be very inexperienced defense. Junior Ryan O'Hara, who had 34 tackles and a sack in 2009, anchors the defensive line. Junior Sean Shapiro returns to the heart of the defense at middle linebacker, where he tallied 57 tackles a year ago. And senior Jamin Vereen, who had 40 tackles and an interceptions last year, is back to lead the secondary.
OUTLOOK: The roster is down to about 40 players, but it consists of 40 players who want to be there and represent what Coach Bruce Gifford wants Riverview football to be, according to the coach. The youth and depth issues with the smaller roster obviously are cause for some concern, but Gifford is confident the Sharks will be competitive and hopeful they can improve on last season's 3-6 mark.
ON OFFENSE: There are playmakers abound in the Knights offense, which averaged 37 points per game in 2009. Senior quarterback Blake Rice, who had a breakout season last year, is back, along with his top two targets in the passing game, Division I recruits Frankie Williams and Ruben Gonzalez. Senior J.J. Hubbard, who had a string of big performances in the playoffs, is the unquestioned No. 1 option at running back this year. He he has the benefit of working behind a solid offensive line that features four-year starter Andrew Meddaugh and Florida International commit Richie Reay.
ON DEFENSE: The Knights return their top three tacklers from last season in senior linebackers Cameron Arnold, John Carter and 2009 all-state pick Tevin Newman, who also led the team in sacks last season. Williams and Gonzalez double as defensive backs, and the secondary also returns Marqus Baker, a two-way player a year ago who will focus primarily on defense this season. The defensive line is somewhat of a question mark, but converted fullback Bob Smith has shown some promise since moving there in the spring.
OUTLOOK: This South Tampa squad is dealing with perhaps the biggest expectations in program history this season. After a run to the Class 2A state semifinals in 2009 and the bulk of that team returning this season, many expect Mike DePue's Knights to take it at least one step further this season and reach the state title game. Depth has always been a concern at Robinson because of the school's size so staying healthy will be key. The biggest question facing the Knights is whether or not they can figure out how to play with a bulls-eye on their backs?
ON OFFENSE: Seffner Christian's first-year program will have an old-school look. Coach Steve Lewis, the former head coach at Temple Heights who has more recently served in assistant-coaching roles at Cambridge Christian and Strawberry Crest, will use the run-oriented double-wing system. "I've been doing a form of that every year since 1980," Lewis said. The ball carriers should be sophomore Seth Lewis, senior Steven Marsh and junior Ben Ghaly. Senior Bradley Moorer (6-2, 202) is the quarterback, but he will platoon with junior Tanner Richardson (5-9, 135). Lewis said Seffner Christian's offensive success will be determined by the line. The potential doesn't look bad. On one side, there could be sophomore guard Aaron Evans (6-4, 240), sophomore offensive tackle Jason Roberts (6-2, 215) and junior tight end Garrett Saunders (6-2, 195). "With those guys, we ought to be able to run a little bit," Lewis said.
ON DEFENSE: The defensive line looks strong with senior defensive end Cole Reichert, Seth Lewis (who started 10 games last season at Strawberry Crest) and Evans. Moorer and Saunders are the key linebackers. Lewis is expecting big things from sophomore cornerback Alex Chillura and junior safety Evan West.
OUTLOOK: Lewis, 60, said he wants to coach for another decade. "I think I can do it," he said. "I'm excited." Starting a program from scratch was always on Lewis' "bucket list" and now that goal has been realized. The Crusaders have a roster of 40-plus players, a major positive for a Class 1B independent program, so Lewis is encouraged about the future. By next season, Seffner Christian could be in a district. For now, Lewis wants his players to learn on a fly, figure out how to become competition and position themselves for a successful spring in 2011.
ON OFFENSE: Senior running back Cary White led the county in rushing last season with 1,594 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns and is hoping to eclipse 2,000 this season. Senior quarterback John Hendrick returns after throwing for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
Turner said the Gryphons will continue to run the triple-option, with a two running back combination of White and Brieann Dollard.
ON DEFENSE: Linebacker Bryce Goeden is the leading returning tackler from last season. Turner said the defense's biggest strength will be the secondary, led by free safety PJ Verlini and cornerback Adrian Lopez. "We'll take advantage of our quickness," Turner said. Turner also said the defense will operate through a 4-3 formation.
OUTLOOK: Brian Turner takes over the Gryphons, who went 8-3 last season, the best record in program history. Sickles lost in the Class 4A region quarterfinals to Armwood, 22-9. Sickles' lone district loss was to Largo, 20-14, but the players are in place on both sides this season, which could lead to a district championship for the Gryphons.
ON OFFENSE: In the spring jamboree, rising senior Nick Addison proved he was worthy of getting the starting nod at quarterback, where he played sparingly last season, completing 12 passes for 266 yards. Caparaso will be also look to senior Cameron Alexander, a left-handed thrower, to interchange with Addison at QB. Caparaso said with Addison and senior receiver Tyrone Baker at receiver, teams will have to worry about the long pass.
At running back, Danny Taylor, who rushed 45 times for 311 yards with four TDs last season, will look to carry the load.
ON DEFENSE: The Spartans have never been shorthanded with defensive players. Jamario Belton, a 6-foot-2, 245 pound defensive lineman will lead the frontline and Taylor will be a standout at linebacker. The secondary will be particularly strong for Spoto, with Donald Smith (safety) and Addison at Baker at cornerback.
OUTLOOK: With the loss of several key offensive players from last season, Spoto coach Dale Caparaso has been experimenting with a few ideas to revamp the Spartans scoring attack this season. Still, the Spartans return several key players from last year's 7-3 team. Spoto missed the playoffs last season and will have to compete in a tough district that includes defending district champion Jefferson, which reached the 3A region final last season, and Lakewood, the 2009 district runner-up.
ON OFFENSE: The Warriors will run what coach Floyd Graham calls a "multiple Wing-T," which in basic terms means they will throw more than a standard Wing-T offense. That makes sense because the Warriors' top athlete is receiver Tobi Antigha, a bona-fide Division-I recruit according to Graham. Throwing to Antigha will be quarterback Christian Carriere, who will also hand off plenty to a variety of backs, including: Kendall Pearcy, Brian Gainer, Mylez Smith, Danny Fernandez and Logan Mcknight. The line is anchored by Tyler Hampton, Alex Vega and Christian Rossi, all of whom have gotten bigger and stronger after a tough offseason of heavy lifting.
ON DEFENSE: The Warriors will line up in a 3-5 set with at least two lineman, Vega and Rossi, getting a lot of playing time both ways. Alex Bambino and Tyler Mitchell are the mainstays at linebacker while Zach Alphonso and Amiri Brown shore up the defensive backs. Expect the Warriors to mix in a bend-but-don't break attitude with a heavy rush.
OUTLOOK: Graham said his team hit the weight room three days after last season ended and they haven't let up since. That's because Graham vowed that his team would never again suffer the kinds of losses it did in the school's inaugural 2009 season. Along with the improved conditioning regimen, Graham has hired a solid supporting staff, including former Jesuit head coach Joe Ross as a defensive coordinator. Overall, there appears to be little doubt that Steinbrenner is on the rise.
ON OFFENSE: The Chargers will run the triple-option, but will mix in the spread as well. When senior quarterback Brandon Reaves is at the helm expect more handoffs. When freshman quarterback Trey Vandergrift is under center you might want to look for the pass. The main targets will be Donnardo Fields and Karel Hamilton. In any offensive set, running back Tommy Herrera, the Chargers offensive player of the year in 2009, is a threat, especially when running behind Louis Trevino or Darryl Barnes, a 6-foot 250-pound bruiser. The Chargers offensive line is bolstered by a year of experience and a solid offseason in the weight room. The anchors on the line include Jake Jordan, Kevin Fales and Jesse Burbage, the latter of whom is 6-foot-5, 308 pounds.
ON DEFENSE: Behind a 4-3 set, the Chargers will enforce an aggressive, one-gap scheme. The linebackers - Daniel Winisky, Brandon Barrow, Kyle Compton and Jeff Hall - may not be the biggest guys, but they are fast and strong. The same could be said in relative terms about the defensive backs, including Joey Trevino , Guillermo Garcia and Norman Hartman. The Chargers defensive front is led by Corey Fliehman, but coach Todd Donohoe said he's looking for more defensive lineman to step as enforcers.
OUTLOOK: As every first-year program experiences, Strawberry Crest went through some serious growing pains in 2009 - from being weak, to small, to slow, to lacking knowledge. All of the Chargers shortcomings, however, have been addressed with a lot of hard work in the weight room and on the field. Coach Todd Donohoe has assembled a dedicated staff with high aspirations. In short, the Chargers will definitely be better - in every way - from 2009.
TAMPA BAY TECH
ON OFFENSE: Yes, he's finally gone. Fullback Maurice Hagens, who provided more than 4,000 yards rushing his four years as a Titans starter, is at the University of Miami and TBT will have to deal with the loss. But coach C.C. Culpepper says he's not looking in the rearview mirror. Instead, he is upbeat about the potential of his current backfield, which he believes could boast more breakaway speed this fall. All three - quarterback Johnathan Williams, fullback Devontae McCloud and tailback Cludner LeCount - can all out-run defenders if they find daylight past the line.
Even more important to the defense of their district title is an offensive line that is deep and averages more than 275 pounds per player. Two - Taijuan Mullins and Dominique Parker - are plus-300 pounds.
TBT will once again be a ground-oriented offense employing the veer option but Williams' experience and throwing ability could see the Titans use more of the pass plays in their playbook this fall. Several promising receivers, like sophomore Brandon Byrd, have Culpepper and his staff excited about those possibilities.
ON DEFENSE: This is the unit TBT will be relying heavily on early in the 2010 campaign. And with returning senior stars like Tim Stewart, who moves from strong safety to strong side linebacker, and Josh Smith, who is back at defensive end, this is a defense that can handle that load.
The Titans' defense is not only strong and fast, it's athletic, too. Many of the players on this squad would be placed on the offensive side of the ball at other schools. But TBT has built its success on defense and players with skills are often steered to play defense first.
OUTLOOK: If TBT can continue to rely on its defense, produce respectable numbers and few turnovers from its offense and receive significant contributions from back-to-back undefeated JV squads, the Titans should not only be able to defend its Class 5A-District 7 crown, they could go well beyond the first round of the playoffs.
ON OFFENSE: Senior fullback Hunter Joyer, a Florida commitment, will be the focal point of the Crusaders' ground-oriented offense but he should get plenty of help in the backfield from two sophomore players with breakaway speed.
The first is Riverview transfer Trevor Register, who has sub-11 second 100-meter speed and a 5-10, 185-pound frame to go with it. The other is a Tampa Bay Tech transfer, Jordan Rich-Rogers, an athlete of similar size as Register who is known for his standout lateral skills.
The void left by the departure of four-year starting quarterback Christian Green will be filled by senior Conner Louis. Although he hasn't seen much duty under center, Louis has been a starter at other spots for TC, including receiver, defensive back and kick returner. His experience and leadership abilities - along with rebuilding an offensive line that lost Chaz Green -- will be vital in what is clearly a transition year for the Crusaders.
ON DEFENSE: As a Class 2B school, TC will likely count on several players going both ways. Joyer, of course, will be one of them when he pulls double duty at linebacker. Like the offense, the Crusaders' defense had big losses to graduation, including leading tackler Brandon Mendoza and secondary stars Chris Lundy and Jeremi Wilkes.
There appears to be enough standout returners to make this a stout defense. Among them are linebackers Tyler Robb and Carson Bomar, defensive linemen Taylor Timmons and Ramsey Murr and defensive back Tyree Holder. Another boost to the defense is the addition of linebacker Aaron Buckley, who transferred back to TC from Alonso.
OUTLOOK: Coach Bob Henriquez isn't predicting a return to the Class 2B finals this fall but he does believe the Crusaders have a good chance at earning their fifth straight title in District 5. To do that, however, might require some of the best coaching he and his staff have ever done.
The reason? TC has lost several Division I players who were three- and four-year starters and considering the level of expectations of a program that has been in the state championship game two of the last three years and at the state semifinals three straight seasons, Henriquez faces one of biggest rebuilding jobs ever. The good news is there's plenty of returning talent, several promising transfers and a few eye-catching freshmen, including 6-3, 282-pound lineman Cory Martinez. But putting that all together into another district crown and deep run into the playoffs is no easy task.
ON OFFENSE: Senior quarterback Ryan Hatter led the offense with 492 passing yards and two touchdowns last season. He split the duties with Tanner Stocker, who completed 13 of 38 passes for 141 yards. Mitchell said Hatter and Stocker will share the position again this season, but said Stocker will be more utilized on defense at safety. Shaq Williams and Marvin Murray will be the team's go-to receivers while David Larry (22 carries, 119 yards, 2009) will carry the load at running back.
ON DEFENSE: Stocker emerged as a playmaker on defense lasts season with 52 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble. Lineman Chowdele't Pierre will be a threat on both sides of the ball.
OUTLOOK: The Wildcats finished 2-8 last season, but were in a rebuilding stage after losing three Division I athletes at key positions in quarterback Andrew Clifford (South Carolina), safety/running back/receiver Jairus Jones (Michigan State) and offensive lineman Hunter Stout (Louisville).