Coach: Rick Kravitz (second season, 4-6)
Last season: 4-6
Colors: Blue and gold
Stadium: Newton-Williams Memorial Stadium, 850 34th St. S., St. Petersburg
Playoff history: 1993, 1994, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2009
Last appearance: Lost 52-15 to Bradenton Manatee.
Aug. 29 at St. Petersburg, 7:30
Sept. 5 vs. Pinellas Park, 7:30
Sept. 12 vs. Largo, 7:30
Sept. 19 vs. Lakewood, 7:30
Sept. 26 vs. Clearwater, 7:30
Oct. 2 at Tarpon Springs, 7:30
Oct. 10 vs. Dixie Hollins, 7:30
Oct. 17 at Boca Ciega, 7:30
Oct. 31 vs. Dunedin, 7:30
Nov. 7 vs. Palm Harbor University, 7:30
Mark your calendar
Lakewood at Gibbs, Sept. 19: It’s the first 5A-8 game for Gibbs and it ends a brutal stretch of four games that includes St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park and Largo. Add in the fact that the schools are neighborhood rivals with former players on each team and this will be a fun four quarters. Tyrell Hubbard-Smith (a Lakewood transfer) will likely play quarterback for the Gladiators. There are story lines galore in this early district showdown.
Stacked in the secondary: Good luck throwing on the Gladiators this season. Junior defensive back Craig Watts is a Division I talent with offers already from Indiana, Ohio State and Florida. Marquez Walls, D.J. Johnson, Tyre Timmons, Verqueze Mitchell, Demond Perry, Dorian Jackson, Hubbard-Smith and St. Petersburg transfer John’Ta Edwards are all top athletes competing for playing time. “I’ve got guys in that secondary who are good enough to start anywhere and they might not get much playing time,” coach Rick Kravitz said.
In the trenches: When Gibbs struggled last season it was because of a lack of depth on the offensive and defensive lines. Kravitz believes there is more size and depth this season. If the big guys can hang on for four quarters, Gibbs becomes a district contender.
Survival of the fittest: Gibbs will know by the end of September how good it really is. Largo has an explosive offense and Lakewood should be one of the top teams in the area, certainly in Pinellas County. Throw in the Pinellas Park game and Gibbs will see some top-notch talent in the first four weeks.
Quarterbacks: Hubbard-Smith will get a shot at playing quarterback, but Mitchell looked pretty good in that spot in the spring game. Johnson also takes reps in practice. He and Mitchell are quick, but Hubbard-Smith has the stronger arm. It could be an interesting battle at that position.
Big numbers: Since taking over last season, Kravitz has scouted the school for talent. He has more than 50 players in preseason practices and said a steady stream of 45 players worked out at the school gym during the summer. That should give the Gladiators the depth they have lacked in previous seasons.
DB/RB Craig Watts, Jr.: Watts sprouted into a Division I defensive back last season and even more is expected from him in 2014. A speedy defender, he also loves to hit and will get some carries in Gibbs’ varied offense.
DE Latroy Killens, Sr.: Killens was good last year but he should be even better this season. He was all over the field in the spring jamboree and has gotten offers from mid-major schools. At 6-foot-3, 250, Killens is hard to push around up front.
RB/DB Tayveon Landsm, Sr.: Landsm is primarily a running back and had nearly 1,000 yards last season. He is more of a finesse back who is dangerous in open space.
QB/DB Tyrell Hubbard-Smith, Sr.: He was good at Lakewood so it stands to reason he will be good at Gibbs. Hubbard-Smith’s role has changed, so it is yet to be determined how well he will play at quarterback. But he is a solid defensive back who only strengthens the defense.
DB/QB Verqueze Mitchell, Jr.: Mitchell is versatile enough to play in the secondary or at linebacker. He can also throw or run for the offense. Expect him to be all over the field.
DB/WR John’Ta Edwards, Sr.: Edwards adds even more speed to both sides of the ball. How he fits in remains to be seen.
FB Mike Smart, So.: Kravitz raved about Smart’s ability and toughness. At close to 200 pounds, he should emerge as a short-yardage back for the Gladiators.
QB/DB D.J. Johnson, Jr.: If he doesn’t find time at quarterback, he’ll get the ball either as a receiver or a running back.
WR/DB Marquez Walls, Sr.: He could replace Jacquez President as the team’s top receiver. He should also be a starter in the defensive backfield.
“We have no shortage of skill guys. The key for us is how we play up front. Last year we had about five or six big guys. This year we have about 10 or 11. That’s got us pretty excited about what we can do.” — Kravitz