Over the next two weeks, we’ll pose and answer a question a day about the upcoming football season. Have a topic you think needs to be addressed? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Which new head coach will fare the best in 2011?
The North Suncoast continued its coaching carousel in the offseason. Land O’Lakes (Brian Wachtel), Mitchell (Scott Schmitz), River Ridge (Ryan Benjamin), Bishop McLaughlin (Derrick Alexander), Nature Coast (Charles Liggett) and Gulf (Tom Carter) have new coaches this fall, although Schmitz has already had a stint as Mustangs head coach.
What we’re saying
Matt Baker: Brian Wachtel, Land O’Lakes. The Gators were good last year and added a successful coach. That sounds like a recipe for a strong 2011 season.
Wachtel joined the team in January, giving him the entire spring to build relationships, evaluate talent and implement new techniques. He showed he can coach at Mitchell, leading the Mustangs to an 8-2 record in 2009 and a 2-0 start last fall before injuries piled up.
Plus Land O’Lakes has plenty of talent from last year’s 9-2 team. Tight end Kent Taylor is the best player on the North Suncoast and a matchup problem against anyone he’ll face.
Quarterback Ryan Bird is accurate and mobile and led the Gators to a 42-10 win in his first start last fall. The county’s top linebacker duo (Jackson Cannon and Shadow Williams) will help out on defense.
Wachtel’s new squad will be tested early. The Gators host Pasco in Week 2 and Hernando on Sept. 23. Those two contests will show if Land O’Lakes and its new coach can contend for the top spot in Class 6A, District 6.
John C. Cotey: I agree with Matt, Wachtel has more talent to work with than any new coach, but have fun improving on last year’s 9-2 mark.
Not saying that record alone determines success, but there’s a lot to live up to in Land O’Lakes (pssst … longest playoff streak in Pasco County history) and it won’t be easy.
For that reason, I think Nature Coast’s Charles Liggett will have the most success. He may be the fourth coach in four years at Nature Coast, but he should bring a stability the program has sorely lacked.
The longtime defensive coordinator has had a few stints as interim coach, and had a lot of support when he applied for the job in 2009 and 2010. In fact, is it even fair to call this guy a new coach?
He is, though, a perfect fit, having witnessed firsthand pretty much everything right and wrong with the Sharks since their inception. And one thing that has usually been right is the defense and smashmouth football. Both should be in full effect this season, and the
Sharks expect to improve on last year’s disappointing 5-5 mark.
The schedule is manageable. The district is tough but not daunting. A playoff spot could be within reach.
What they’re saying
Alexander, on taking over Bishop McLaughlin: “I think this is a good place for me. They’re a young program. I feel like I can put my footprint on building it and going the right direction. … The bar is high. They had a really good season last year. They were 7-3. I’ve got to make sure they put in the work in the offseason because this is when games are won …”
Alexander, a former Florida State great, is making one major tactical change, switching the Hurricanes’ offense from a veer system to the Power-I formation to take advantage of quarterback RJ Perciavalle and running back Jordan Betancourt.
“As I stood back and started looking at our personnel, it was a situation where I saw we've got talent all across the board. It was a good offense, but it seems like it puts your offense at a disadvantage. I feel like we can get some things done offensively and move the ball and put us in a good situation defensively.”
By Matt Baker and John C. Cotey, Times staff writers
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