To preview the 2012 high school football season, The Tampa Tribune is counting down the top 10 teams in Hillsborough County. These preseason rankings were voted on by Tribune writer Bill Ward, high school sports editor Doug Jacobs and correspondents Mike Camunas, Jarrett Guthrie and Scott Purks. Today: No. 3 Jesuit.
Jesuit High might be featuring a new starter at quarterback and several changes on its coaching staff, but the Tigers should still be among the county's elite squads in 2012.
The new man under center for Jesuit is 6-foot, 215-pound senior Leland Saile. Better known for his performances on Jesuit's nationally-ranked baseball team, Saile has never started a game at quarterback and threw a total of five passes last season. Nonetheless, he's brimming with confidence.
"I want to run the table, lead Jesuit to a state championship and become one of the best quarterbacks in our school's history," Saile says matter-of-factly. "I've got great players around me. There's no reason why we can't do that."
Head coach James Harrell has assembled a new-look staff this season that includes three former high school head coaches: George Edington (Lennard), Tchecoy Blount (Freedom) and James Jones (Pompano Beach Ely). Jones is also a former University of Florida and NFL running back and Jesuit's staff also features another ex-pro, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Vinny Testaverde. His son, Vincent Jr., is a junior quarterback on this year's Jesuit squad.
With a big offensive line featuring University of South Florida commitments Robby Garcia (6-3, 260 pounds) and Cameron Ruff (6-4, 280), Harrell said he wants to return to a run-first oriented offense.
That's going to mean a lot of work for running backs Will Lucas and Kevin Newman, but Harrell believes he has the guys to keep teams honest if defenses key on the Tigers' running game: wide receiver Travis Johnson and tight end Vincent Jackson, who will also play key rolls on defense.
Defense is Harrell's specialty, an area he helped four-time state champion Plant High establish itself as a hard-hitting, gang-tackling unit that knows how to play gap control and pursue en masse. As usual, look for those same traits in the Tigers defense this fall.
KICKOFF CLASSIC: Aug. 24 at Miami Belen Jesuit
SEASON OPENER: Sept. 1 vs. Plant
PREVIOUS TOP 10 TEAMS: 10. Durant; 9. Sickles; T7. Tampa Bay Tech; T7 Jefferson; 6. Gaither; T4. Hillsborough; T4. Robinson.