After three months of summer football conditioning and enough 7-on-7 football to make The Bachelorette seem watchable, fall football drills finally began in Hillsborough County and across the state today.
All of the county's 33 football-playing squads got to break a sweat in helmets and shorts. Come Thursday, they can put on the pads and start popping one another.
However, under new rules approved by the Florida High School Athletics Association last June, practices will be limited this week. Teams can't hold their usual two-a-day sessions this week and are limited to a total of 18 hours for the six days.
And even though teams can have two-a-days next week, any squad that holds a two-a-day session one day must hold a single practice the following day.
As the season heads toward Kickoff Classic games Aug. 24 and RNC-bumped season openers Sept. 1, more than a few compelling story lines are already here.
Will Armwood respond after having its title stripped?
The FHSAA stripped the Hawks of their 2011 state crown because of residency violations and took away their 2010 state runners-up title for the same reason. After those hits — plus the ones that keep coming due to continued close scrutiny of the program — how will the Hawks respond?
Enough skill players return, including Mr. Showtime, Alvin Bailey, but what about losing their entire O-line, game-breaking running backs such as Matt Jones and Wade Edwards and monsters on defense like Eric Striker, Keionne Baines and Allen Covington? Those were more than great players; they were great leaders and the soul of the team.
Between the JV players coming up and the ones returning, the Hawks should be just fine. They also just won a section appeals case that granted eligibility to 6-foot-4, 275-pound lineman Aaron Evans.
Can Plant return to the state title game for the sixth time in seven years?
Yes, even though this Panthers roster appears to have even fewer big names than last year's Class 8A title squad, coach Robert Weiner and his staff fully expect to be defending their crown in 2012.
For Weiner, the question marks he faces are more like riddles he has to solve, like a Sunday crossword puzzle. You may not recognize a lot of the names yet. And he will need to mold a quarterback, Aaron Banks, who has never started a varsity game.
But make no mistake, Weiner has the athletes and coaching staff to get Plant back to the finals.
At Blake (Darryl Gordon), Brandon (Dean Eychner), Chamberlain (D.J. Mayo), Freedom (Todd Donohoe), Lennard (Keith Chattin), Riverview (Mike Thornton), Steinbrenner (Andres Perez) and Strawberry Crest (John Kelly). It will be interesting to see which of the newcomers can achieve success at each of those schools, and, if they struggle, how long their administrators will support them before using the "We've decided to go in a different direction" card.
New transfer rule — maybe
If the new transfer rule proposed by Hillsborough County Athletic Director Lanness Robinson is approved as policy this year by the district's school board — and from all indications, it looks like it will — it will become more difficult for student-athletes to transfer between public schools.
Recent state legislation has left such rules in the hands of the individual school districts and in Hillsborough, Robinson has put forth a proposal that would force a transfer to sit out a full calendar year if it is determined they made the switch for athletic reasons. The students would have the opportunity to have their case heard by an appeals committee and there's always a chance a parent could litigate the matter, but many coaches say the rule would at least "make them think twice" before transferring to a new school.