Tom Carter spent his first season as Gulf High football coach searching for players. He entered this one searching for leaders.
Carter admitted his search is over.
Despite their differing styles, Dustin Bush and Travis Thomas spent much of the offseason asserting themselves as two of the Buccaneers' unquestioned leaders. What's more, they've made it clear they're ready to leave behind a disappointing 2011 season.
"Dustin's vocal and Travis leads by example, but it's clear the rest of the team gravitates to them," Carter said. "They're pushing guys to get in the weight room and talking to guys that aren't stepping it up.
"They're both just football players. They strap it up and are ready to go every day."
Bush and Thomas will play significant minutes both ways this season, the former on the offensive and defensive lines, the latter at running back and linebacker.
Both believe they're ready for the challenge.
"I like the fact that I'm playing both ways," Thomas said. "It allows me to have more of an impact on the game. Coach expects a lot out of me and I expect a lot out of myself."
For Bush, the move from guard to center signifies just how important the coaching staff believes his role will be. Anchoring a line that returns four starters and entered camp already, "knowing 80-percent of the offense," the senior will be allowed to make blocking calls and hopes to pave the way for a surprising amount of talented playmakers in the Gulf backfield.
"We expect things to be much smoother this year," Bush said. "Last year was tough, but once summer came, we had so many kids in the weight room and then so many kids at the first practice. That's the kind of stuff that gets your confidence up right away and lets us know we can be a much better team this year."