Spring football is in the books for Hillsborough County, and frankly, we’re in the dumps. For the next two-plus months, the full-fledged, full-padded, Friday night brand of our favorite sport takes a summer sabbatical. Until then, we can only pontificate on what we saw this spring and project what may happen this fall — either that or watch seven-on-seven. Frankly, we prefer the former. Here then, is our spring assessment and a look ahead to opening night of the 2011 season (a full 98 days away).
Post-spring top 10
Subject to several changes before Sept. 2
1. Armwood: And there’s not even a 1A.
2. Plant: We see defense carrying the Panthers until the offense gets its bearings.
3. Jesuit: Aside from a hole or two on defense, the Tigers are loaded.
4. Plant City: It’s now or never for the Raiders, who are brimming with talent and experience
5. Hillsborough: Must get more dimensional on offense, but defense is playoff-caliber
6. Jefferson: Athletes abound for new coach Jeremy Earle, but many are green
7. Berkeley Prep: Only thing keeping Bucs from a state title may be concerns up front
8. King: Lions are downright lethal in the passing game, but depth has to be a worry
9. Steinbrenner: Third-year Warriors now have experience and confidence
10. Robinson: Something tells us the new-look Knights will be a player in Class 5A, District 8
From anonymous to marvelous
Five guys we didn’t know before spring practice began, but do now:
WR Geronimo Allison, Spoto: A 6-foot-4 rising senior, Allison is back on solid academic footing after being ineligible the past two years. In the spring jamboree, he had a 53-yard touchdown catch. “For me to say he’s the best receiver, considering what we’ve had here at Spoto, that’s a bold statement,” coach Dale Caparaso said. Cap says it anyway.
RT Kenny Barrett, Berkeley Prep: This 6-foot-6, 290-pound power hitter for the Bucs baseball team tried football for the first time this spring. By many accounts, the experiment is working beautifully.
RB Jamarlon Hamilton, Durant: A versatile rising junior who ran for 500 yards in 2010, Hamilton and senior Mike Stephens could form a prolific tandem in a Cougars offense that smoked Strawberry Crest in the spring jamboree.
TE/DE Vincent Jackson, Jesuit: As if the Tigers needed more weapons. Jackson, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound rising sophomore, projects as a two-way force this fall.
RB Kaylab Phillips, Lennard: This rising senior, a 145-pound state wrestling qualifier last winter, possesses a burst to complement his brute strength. In the spring jamboree against Riverview, Phillips ran for nearly 40 yards on four carries and had a 75-yard touchdown run called back. Coach George Edington likens him to former Newsome workhorse Connor Powers.
Five bold predictions for 2011
1. If you thought the coaching turnover was alarming this offseason, when seven schools had changes, just wait. We’re guessing at least eight coaches retire/resign/get canned after 2011.
2. Carrollwood Day junior Robert Davis will be the county’s leading rusher. King senior Greg Windham will be the top passer. Plant senior Drew Madhu will be its leading tackler.
3. Rising senior James Few wins Plant’s quarterback derby, and keeps the job all season.
4. Few watches his defense spark the Panthers’ seven-point win over Jesuit in the Sept. 2 season opener in front of 4,000 at Dads Stadium.
5. Despite a quantum leap in classification (from 2A to 7A), Steinbrenner will post its first winning season and capture the District 7 title.
By the numbers
3 Former Hillsborough County head coaches on East Bay’s staff. Dan O’Regan (Riverview), Scott Palmer (Leto, Spoto) and Sean Washington (Blake) are on board with new coach Frank LaRosa
52-16 Combined 2010 record of Jefferson’s first five regular-season opponents this fall (Robinson, Newsome, Plant, Armwood, Hillsborough). That winning percentage increases if the Dragons are allowed to drop one of those foes for a game at defending Ohio Division I state champion St. Edward.
28 Leto players who suited up for new coach Matt Kitchie in the spring jamboree
31 Rostered Plant varsity players who didn’t dress — via coaches’ decision — for the spring jamboree
“We’ve got some good guys in numbers. We don’t know how good they’re all going to be yet, but we’re really, really excited. We had one of the best springs — in terms of our kids listening and learning and getting better — that we’ve ever had at Plant.” — coach Robert Weiner, who suited up 60 for the spring jamboree
“We didn’t know what our identity was going to be. I think you can see we’re going to be a hard-hitting, hard-nosed team. We’re going to be aggressive as (heck) to try to make big plays (on defense).” — new Jefferson coach Jeremy Earle following the Dragons’ 20-10 spring jamboree win against Robinson
“We’re still running option but multiple formation. A lot of (spring) was learning some new terminology and some new things that we were adding to the repertoire. We’re still running midline, still running triple, but we added jet, we added toss, some more passing out of the double-wing, double-split set.” — LaRosa, making over East Bay’s offense after nearly two decades of wishbone devoutness under predecessor Brian Thornton