We have a special report coming from all three scrimmage sites today, but until then, he's some stuff from my visit to Countryside that didn't make it in:
1. Northeast's Ryan Davis and Lakewood transfer Donterio' Fowler are going to have some fun this season. Davis, the sophomore quarterback and brother of 2001 Times Player of the Year Chris Davis, looks so much more comfortable under center, and has a really good sense of the size of the pocket during each play, nimbly moving around just enough to stay out of reach of linemen. He is fast enough that I can see him as a 1,000-yard rusher and passer by his senior year, but he definitely looks to pass first. He gives himself a 4 on a scale of 1-10 for last year's performance, "but this year I think I'll be a 10.'' And Fowler gives him a speedy target with game-breaking ability. He had a nice touchdown where he beat defenders along the sideline, and he even got a few at carries spelling starter Keith Harrington (another nice looking Viking player). Over the next two years the Davis-Fowler duo should establish themselves as the next Tracy Johnson-Rodney Adams or Pete DiNovo-Artavis Scott when it comes to feared pass-catch combinations in Tampa Bay.
2. Countryside's rushing attack won't miss a beat this season, despite the loss of 1,249-yard rusher Diomi Roberts. Speedy Mike Jerrido had a number of big runs Saturday, and Herb Daniels, the junior varsity's leading rusher, broke one for a long touchdown as well. Behind an offensive line that is once again positioning itself as one the county's best best, I wouldn't be surprised if that tandem netted 1,500 yards rushing combined this season, or more.
3. Some seem to think new Countryside quarterback Christian Strong will be an upgrade over Gray Crow, now at Miami. I'm not ready to say that after watching a controlled scrimmage, but Strong looked good Saturday. I think the potential is there for the Cougars to be better on offense this season, especially if Marrieo Taylor can establish himself as a No. 1 receiver and Joe Ganci is a reliable target, which he should be. Combine that with a defense that returns the Times defensive player of the year Mike Love -- he looked fabulous, as well -- linebacker Ryan Yates and defensive backs like Mike Johnson, Shyzzam Shackleford and Tyler Serpo, well, you might have Pinellas County's best team. Tough call between East Lake, Lakewood and the Cougars.
4. I still think Lakewood needs a running back that can go 20-25 times a game -- and a coaching staff willing to stick to doing that -- to truly take that next step, because the passing game looks great and the offensive line is very good. I saw a number of different players, even top wide receiver Rodney Adams, get carries but no one stood out.
6. I was impressed by River RIdge's size. Former player (and Buccaneer) Ryan Benjamin, who I used to cover as a player, thinks it's as big an offensive and defensive line as the Royal Knights have ever fielded, and I'd have to agree. They have big returning guys like 300-pounders Hayden Krautner and Carlos Santamaria on the right side (Krautner looks like a college prospect to me, at some level) but Gulf transfer Damion Hicks puts them over the top when he lines up at tight end. Hicks will mostly play defenisve end and tackle, and at 6-2, 300 pounds said he has already heard from Missouri, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Miami, Florida and Marshall. He needs to get stronger and quicker to play end, but he could be a find for someone. And speaking of finds, Ridgewood transfer T.J. Petrizzi is fitting right in at middle linebacker for the Royal Knights. He looked good, spearheading an aggressive defense that looked great until Countryside busted some big plays during the last 12-play set.
7. River Ridge was the most enthusiastic team out there Saturday, by far. Every big play drew loud cheers from the sideline. Great energy around that team. The Royal Knights also caught a beneficial break when Shorecrest canceled. Instead of being matched up with the Chargers (while Countryside and Bogie played on the other half of the field), the Royal Knights got to go up against Countryside's No. 1 and No. 2 units. I'm pretty sure even the Cougars' No. 2s are better than a rebuilding Shorecrest team as a measuring stick for Benjamin's troops.
8. Lakewood's defense was missing safety Shaquill Griffin, and that unit could still be the Spartans Achilles' heel in 2012. The defense was alright, but to be fair I was on the 50 and didnt have a great angle trying to watch both sides and they were matched up against Bradenton Southeast, an excellent program. And the best player I saw out there, Seminoles running back Courtney Allen, gashed the Spartans the same way he ran wild over Largo in last year's season opener. Still, Lakewood has as much talent as anyone, if it all comes together it could be a special season for the Spartans.
9. Now that Nshimyumuremyi just rolls off my tongue, let's move on from longest name to best nickname: Boca Ciega quarterback Ryan Henson made some nice throws Saturday, and his long flowing hair has earned him the moniker Sunshine from his teammates.
10. Though I wasn't at Calvary Christian, I heard lots of good things about Anclote. I think they might just challenge Fivay for the runnerup spot in Class 5A-6 (behind Pasco), and while I'm at it, I think River Ridge is going to make a strong run at Hernando and Nature Coast for the 6A-6 playoff spots. Though if neither materialize, I will blame it all on the morning heat.
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