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Cotey: Spring football primer

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Mon. April 30, 2012 | John C. Cotey | Email

Cotey: Spring football primer

Are you ready for some …wait, wait.

Let me try again.

Spring is in the …no, no no.

Scratch all that. Let’s go with: Football!

Nice, simple and to the exclamation point.

High school practice starts Tuesday and we’ve got big arms, like the one East Lake quarterback Pete DiNovo uses to sling the ball.

We’ve got sure hands, like those Lakewood’s Rodney Adams uses to catch it.

We’ve got fancy feet, like those St. Petersburg Catholic’s Ryan Green uses to break ankles (and necks if you’re watching him).

We’ve got, well, a little bit of all of that in Armwood’s diverse and dominant Alvin Bailey.

And let’s not forget da noise and da funk, brought each play by the guy in the headband, Armwood’s ball Hawk Leon McQuay III.

You’ll know spring practice has started by the whistles blowing, footballs flying and coaches yelling. Those older men watching from the sideline? They are from USC and Ohio State and Michigan and Alabama and all the state schools, watching from behind sunglasses, taking notes, making offers.

Yep. Football!

And speaking of older men in sunglasses writing down observations, here are some of mine:

Spring’s top 10 teams
1. Armwood: Wavered on this for a bit, then remembered to be the man, you have to, well, you know.

2. Plant: Another quarterback search, which is rarely a problem for the Panthers.

3. East Lake: The Eagles boast what may be the best pass-catch duo in Tampa Bay with DiNovo and Artavis Scott, and a much-improved defense.

4. Countryside: Expect improvement at quarterback, the whole O-line is back, a top-notch fullback and tight end, and the defense is strong as it goes for third straight 10-0 season.

5. Lakewood: More talent than anyone in Pinellas County. Have I said that before? Yes, yes I have. Like every year.

6. Pasco: Yeah, Pirates lost their record-setting quarterback. And?

7. Hillsborough: Three losses last season — to state champs Plant and Armwood (twice).

8. Gaither: Upstart program with a chance to build on very good 2011 season.

9. Tampa Bay Tech: New quarterback, great running attack, addition of four-star recruit Richard Benjamin make Tech one of area’s best.

10. Jesuit: Big issues at quarterback, but enough playmakers to compensate and a defense that should be really nasty.

Next 10: 11. Robinson; 12. Jefferson; 13. Largo; 14. Hernando; 15. Sickles; 16. Durant; 17. Newsome; 18. Clearwater Central Catholic; 19. Spoto; 20. St. Petersburg.


Intriguing players to watch
1. QB Darryl Richardson, Armwood: He has to lock the starting job down in the spring and hang on to it until December, keeping Alvin Bailey where he belongs.

2. RB Eric Moate, Spoto: Averaged 10 yards a carry, will get a heavier workload in 2012, has the speed and toughness to be a star.

3. WR Rodney Adams, Lakewood: He’s committed to Florida as a pass catcher, but word is he’s going to take a spin as a running back this spring. “Nelson Agholor did it, he can,” Bailey said last week, while sizing up Adams.

4. QB Juwan Brown, Largo: Someone (cough cough) predicted a few years back the Packers would win a state title, mostly because of a great class headed up by Brown. It’s now or never for a guy I thought would go down as one of the best ever.

5. RB David Emmanuel, Pasco: Barring injury, he’s going to get 1,000 yards for the third straight season, and success will be paramount to easing in a new quarterback in Dade City.

6. RB Emmanuel Stewart, Gibbs: Coming off an ACL injury, looking to regain form and may play quarterback.

7. QB Christian Strong, Countryside: Last time a new Cougar quarterback moved in, I proclaimed him the best in Pinellas. I won’t go so far this time, but if he’s better, look out.

8. RB Wesley Bullock, Plant: He fits in James Wilder Jr.’s back pocket, but the kid is fast and tough as nails.

9. RB Tyrail Hawkins, Hernando: Comes off a tremendous season and one of the finest all-around players (RB/CB/KR) in bay area.

10. QB Tracy Johnson, Lakewood: He could throw for 3,000 yards in the fall. No, really.

11. DL Joey Ivie, Pasco: He jumped out at us during last year’s playoff run. Now it’s your turn.

12. RB Matt Breida, Nature Coast: He’s kind of blowing up these days. If he can be limited to one side of the ball, he’s a lock for 2,000 yards.


Potential breakout stars

1. QB Alex McGough, Gaither: I think he could end up being the best quarterback in Tampa Bay before he graduates.

2. DE Brad Smith, Jesuit: He quietly had 13 sacks last season and is primed for even more than that this season.

3. WR Bilal Salat and QB Nate Mills, Sickles: Salat is a hugely underrated wideout, and along with Mills may head up an Air Turner offense. You heard me.

4. QB Deiondre Porter, Jefferson: Porter closed out his sophomore season by completing 41 of his last 54 passes with 11 touchdown passes. He’ll have to hold off Tyler Small, but if he does …

5. RB Xavier Johnson, Chamberlain: To be fair, he broke out last season (1,500 yards) but if he brings his team along with him, he’ll go down in Chief lore.

6. LB Napoleon Maxwell, Admiral Farragut: Big hitter does it all for Blue Jackets. I'd take him as an RB or LB.

7. RB Tramaine Batten, Dunedin: Shhhh. Batten had 1,000 yards last season, but if a tree falls in the forest …

8. RB Maurice Hemingway, St. Petersburg: The man in the Green Devils’ backfield does big things every year. Hemingway is the man this spring.

9. OL Aaron Evans, Armwood: The 6-foot-5, 270-pound Seffner Christian transfer is big and strong, and should anchor the rebuilding O-line.

10. DB Michael Stevenson, Clearwater Central Catholic: A Division I talent, as we will all find out this spring.

11. FB/LB Ryan Yates, Countryside: A fullback breaking out? Yeah. What of it? Yates is a beast.

12. ATH Rohan Blackwood, Nature Coast: Bursting with size and athleticism, if Charles Liggett can harness and direct it, BOOM!


Five coaches with their hands full
1. Mark Kantor, Hudson: He said he had 60 out for a meeting. That’s where it starts for the 0-20 Cobras.

2. Alonzo Ashwood, Middleton: Exodus of his best players the past two offseasons, and an 0-10 record, leaves the second-year coach with a bigger mountain to climb.

3. Jay Fulmer, Ridgewood: He’s back, and if he was able to turn Gulf into a winner, he can, in time, do the same at Ridgewood.

4. Matt LePain, Palm Harbor University: Has to replace a ton of talent on offense, though linebacker Quentin Cummings might help the coach retain his sanity.

5. Steve Dudley, St. Petersburg Catholic: With some of the returning talent, like Green, it will be a shame if numbers are way down again.


Four interesting spring matchups
1. Lakewood at Lakeland, May 31: Say what you will about the meaning of spring games, but in this meeting last year Lakewood started strong and finished poorly. Just like their regular season.

2. CCC at Hernando, May 18: Love this matchup. Lots of speed and athleticism on both sides, hope both coaches open it up.

3. Manatee at Gibbs, May 25: Antonio Knox has also scheduled Armwood for the fall preseason game. I see him working, but is it too soon?

4. Sarasota Cardinal Mooney at Carrollwood Day, May 17: Can’t speak to the actual matchup, but running back Robert Davis is a treat to watch, and it’s the first game. Winner!


Four things to do for spring football
1. Check tampabay.com/hometeam for daily football posts, lots of videos and a chance to chime in with your thoughts.

2. Check out the North Suncoast, Pinellas and Hillsborough daily editions of the newspaper, which will feature the best daily spring football coverage.

3. If you’re not following us on Twitter, why the heck not? Get with me @JohnnyHometeam and my football friends in Pasco/Hernando (@MattHomeTeam), Hillsborough (@JoeyHomeTeam @LauraHomeTeam) and Pinellas (@BobbyHomeTeam and @RodneyHomeTeam).

4. Get over to Facebook and join in on our daily spring football questions and funny banter — well, I’m at least witty.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com.

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