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Fri. June 1, 2012 | John C. Cotey | Email

BLOGUMN: Goodbye spring football, we hardly knew ye

Remember the spring football primer?

Well, spring's over. Let's see how I did.

Spring’s top 10 teams

How I had it back on May 1:

1. Armwood; 2. Plant; 3. East Lake; 4. Countryside; 5. Lakewood; 6. Pasco; 7. Hillsborough; 8. Gaither; 9. Tampa Bay Tech; 10. Jesuit


How I would rank them now:

1. Plant: Yep, I'm swapping the Panthers and the Hawks. For now. The more I read and hear, the more I like the Panthers. The offense can be spectacular. Offensive line is going to be very good, Wesley Bullock is a 1,000-yard guy, the addition of wide receiver Tristan Cooper to go with Dereck Mann gives Plant explosiveness everywhere. The defense will be good to start the season, great by the end of it.

2. Armwood: Quarterback situation is still iffy, and if the latest batch of transfers can't play, there will be big holes on the offensive line. Regardless, Plant is probably the only team that will be able to beat the Hawks.

3. Counytryside: I think the defense will be the difference maker. DE Mike Love is fabulous and looked unblockable, and CB Mike Johnson vs. East Lake WR Artavis Scott in Week 2 is going to be a party.

4. East Lake: Still has the county's deadliest combo in Pete DiNovo-to-Scott, but there's still some lingering questions along the offensive and defensive lines.

5. Largo: I tried not to vault the Packers too high (I had them 13th) based merely on their overwhelmingly good performance against a woeful Clearwater team, but I could not resist. I had to muster every bit of will power to keep the Packers below Countryside and East Lake, but I did it. QB Juwan Brown looked great at the referee scrimmage and in the spring game, and few can match Largo's skills position group. If they can get RB Jarvis Stewart back, look out.

6. Pasco: As staff writer Matt Baker tweeted on the night the Pirates played their spring game, "Janarion Grant is still good." I'm sold. Pasco may not have the strength up front or experience at quarterback or the depth to hang with some of the bigger schools in Hillsborough, but they will go 10-0 again this season and make some playoff noise. 

7. Hillsborough: The defense will have to lead the way, but if Hillsborough's young quarterbacks come along, the road to the postseason will be that much smoother.

8. Gaither: The Cowboys looked great in warmups before their spring jamboree was rained out. Okay, so that's all I saw of the Cowboys, but nothing has changed my mind about them being ranked right here.

9. Jesuit: The Tigers have seven players with scholarship offers already, and as long as they can settle on a competent quarterback, I don't expect much of a drop-off from last year at all.

10. Clearwater Central Catholic: Yep. I had the Marauders at No. 18 in the preseason, but I watched their win over Hernando and spent a day at practice and the list of quality players they have is a long one. RB Diquan Walker is going to break out in a big way, the defense will be very good and if Blake Gomez lives up to expectations, it could be John Davis' best team. Ever.

Next 10: 11. Robinson; 12. Jefferson; 13. Lakewood; 14. Sickles; 15. Durant; 16. Newsome; 17. Hernando; 18. Spoto; 19. St. Petersburg; 20. Pinellas Park

 

5 THINGS I'M THINKING TODAY:

1. You are losing by 22 points, it's the fourth quarter, there's 84 seconds remaining, you are going against the other team's junior varsity in a meaningless spring football game.

Why do you have all your starters in the game, especially your quarterback?

I asked Lakewood coach Corey Moore this question Thursday night, and he said he just didn't think Tracy Johnson would get hurt, but guess what. He did. Johnson was destroyed by a Lakeland player on what coaches felt was a late hit. Almost the entire staff was on the field yelling at the refs about the hit, which put Johnson down for a good five minutes and eventually required that he go to the hospital for stitches on his left cheek. He was lucky that's all it was.

While the Spartans staff walked out onto the field yelling about the hit, and a few fans came down to the fence to scream about it as well, I wondered: are you screaming in the right direction?

Let's face it, there was no reason for Johnson to still be playing. Maybe Lakewood thought it could get one more score to end the spring on a high note, but would there have been any satisfaction scoring on a team's backups' backups? For a team flush with Division I talent, that's just embarassing if that was the case. Clearwater did the same thing against Largo, sending their ones out there in the final minutes to punch one in at the buzzer against Largo's JV defense to make it 61-6.

But that's Clearwater. The Tornadoes clearly needed the pick-me-up.

Lakewood, though? Really?

Oh, and by the way, the Spartans did not score on the Dreadnaughts junior varsity.

Considering that Johnson was knocked out of last year's spring game vs. Lakeland (and had already been leveled once Thursday) and Dante Fowler was injured playing running back in last year's spring game, you might think the Spartans would be more alert to the possibility of injuries.

At least the Spartans had some luck. They replaced Johnson with arguably the team's best player in Rodney Adams, and he survived the final minute without any injuries.


2. I would have made Lakewood the preseason district favorite in Class 5A-8 pre-spring, but with its second-half implosion (the Spartans actually led 6-0 at halftime before losing 34-12), is it still the favorite?

They had no running game, the offensive line was supposed to be a strength and wasn't, and with more talent than one of Lakeland's worst teams in years the Spartans should have won that game. Now you have to look seriously at Jesuit and Robinson as the teams to beat.

I still think the Spartans have some excellent gamers (give me Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin, Rodney Adams and Tracy Johnson all day), but you have to wonder why it's not coming together. 


3. Is the best quarterback in Pinellas County still East Lake's Pete DiNovo?

I think so. But I think Largo's Juwan Brown closed the gap this spring, looking like the guy who had big things predicted for him as a freshman. Both Brown and DiNovo were great in May, and I think they firmly established themselves as Nos. 1-2. I think Johnson could break that up in time, but it won't be easy.


4. Will Pasco's Joey Ivie be Pasco County's most destructive defensive lineman since Zephyhills' Ryan Pickett?

There's a good chance. I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone blow up plays like Pickett used to do for the Bulldogs, but Ivie has the potential to come awfully close.


5. Was this a good or bad spring of football?

It was the best if you're counting the number of offers picked up by the local players. In Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, more than 90 players have offers, and that number will probably top 100 by the fall. There's still the Duclos brothers (Carlos and Michael) at Robinson along with teammates Vidal Woodruff and Zain Gilmore, Fivay tight end Kevin Faulkner, Gibbs defensive back Albert Laskett and others out there waiting on No. 1.

But, the rainouts of the spring clusters in Hillsborough was devastating (I was especially disappointed in not getting to see Sickles and Gaither play) and so many of the games that were played in the other counties were lopsided affairs that left it hard to judge the winners and losers.

 

RANDOM STUFF

1. Ryan Davis, Northeast's sophomore quarterback, is the real deal.

2. CCC RB Diquan Walker and DL Jordan Adderly were dominant on their respective sides of the ball all spring.

3. Countryside DE Mike Love still looks like our Defensive Player of the Year, which he was last season.

4. Gibbs CB Albert Laskett may actually be, as his coach claims, the next Gary Simon, and then some.

5. Of the schools that start with the letter D, who has the best, most exciting and promising backfield among Dixie Hollins (Demondre Lambert and Kabriel Jackson), Dunedin (Shaquille Dixon, Stanci Howard and Tramaine Batten) and Durant (Jamarlon Hamilton, Chris Atkins and Zach Hooper)? Hey, I said this was random.

6. St. Petersburg Catholic's Quan Fuller will have at least three runs of more than 70 yards next season.

7. Something is still telling me Tampa Bay Tech is a sleeping giant.

8. Northeast transfer quarterback Taron Williams started for Pinellas Park and completed all 10 of his passes for 110 yards and two scores. HomeTeamer Bob Putnam says he looked terrific, and he has a little brother who is going to be special, too.

9. Teams that I keep on accidentally overlooking: Robinson, St. Petersburg, Nature Coast. I really need to stop.

10. I sure wish I had more Hillsborough County stuff to add, but that dang rain!

 

SEVEN EARLY LEADERS FOR MOST IMPROVED TEAM IN 2012

1. Chamberlain

2. Dixie Hollins 

3. Anclote

4. Gibbs

5. Dunedin

6. Springstead

7. St. Petersburg Catholic

 

JUST TO KEEP YOU EXCITED: BEST FIVE SEASON OPENERS IN 2012

*Bonus: With fake Vegas lines, though we completely and utterly discourage betting. Home team in bold.

1. East Lake (-4) Clearwater Central Catholic

2. Plant (-9) Jesuit

3. Robinson (-3.5) Jefferson

4. St. Petersburg (-8) Gibbs

5. Fivay (-1.5) River Ridge

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