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A strong group of linemen.
Two blue-chip recruits to catch the ball.
Speed to burn in the backfield.
And one gaping hole at quarterback.
When spring practice started Tuesday at Jesuit, the battle to replace Tommy Eveld began in earnest between DJ Diaz, Trent Wessel, Vincent Testaverde and Wesley Eveld.
None of the players have thrown a varsity pass.
“We’re young at that position,” coach James Harrell said, “but we will coach them up.”
Isaac Holder, a promising rising sophomore, was the heir apparent to Tommy Eveld, but has transferred to Sickles.
And rising senior Leland Saile would have opened the spring as the starter if he wasn’t starting in rightfield for the nationally ranked baseball team. Saile is hitting .325 with 17 runs scored and two home runs. He appeared in three football games last season, completing one pass in the Tigers’ 78-0 win over Lennard for 17 yards.
While Saile could regain the job in August, Harrell isn’t waiting around.
To win this year, the Tigers will have to utilize their offensive talent, which includes wide receiver Travis Johnson, tight end Vincent Jackson, running back Kevin Newman and athlete Reggie Brown.
In other words, the quarterback has to come through.
Diaz, a rising senior, is the current leader and probable spring game starter.
“The battle is really even,” said Diaz, who wore No. 46 last year and played some at fullback. “I’m confident in myself. I don’t know about everyone else’s confidence in me, but hopefully I can earn it in the spring game.”
Wessel showed off a strong arm Tuesday evening.
Eveld, a rising sophomore, looks just like his brothers, former Tiger quarterbacks Bobby and Tommy, but is not as advanced.
And Testaverde, a rising junior, is playing football for the first time. But he has good pedigree — his father is Vinny Testaverde, the 1986 Heisman Trophy winner and former Buc who has taken on the task of getting the quarterbacks ready.
“We have some work to do,” Vinny said. “But we’ll be okay. And if we end up having to play more than one guy, we’ll do it.”
Harrell said the Tigers will run a multiple-set offense, and he will simplify things for the new starter if he has to.
But he’s hardly worried. Last year, Jesuit went 11-2, scored 33 points a game and achieved the kind of balance Harrell strives for: 185 yards passing and 153 yards rushing per game.
He said between the strong running back, short passes and maybe even a little triple option, the Tigers’ offense should be effective again.
Reggie Brown, who has picked up a handful of scholarship offers for his excellent work at cornerback, ran with the offense at running back, something fans may see more of in the fall.
Last year, Brown only ran two times and caught 22 passes, four for scores to go with his three interruptions.
“We’ll play Reggie Brown at running back, quarterback and wide receiver,” Harrell said. “He’ll get the ball in his hands. He’s explosive.”
Brown, a quick 5-10, 160 pounds, actually played some quarterback in little league and middle school. He’ll be under center in some packages.
“We’ll go to the more athletic guy if we have to,” said Harrell. “You look at Armwood and (Alvin) Bailey back at quarterback and they won a state championship with a guy that’s not really a quarterback. Reggie can do some of those same things.”
Surprise visitor at Tampa Catholic
With a few weeks off before summer classes start, Florida State wide receiver Christian Green stopped by Tampa Catholic, his alma mater, for the first day of spring practice.
After the Crusaders ran their final sprints, Green, who led Tampa Catholic to the Class 2B state title game in 2009, addressed the 40 or so Crusaders (sporting gold helmets in honor of the school’s 50th anniversary) in their post practice huddle.
“Listen to the coaches, they know what they’re talking about,” he said. “They helped me get where I’m at.”
Robinson gets key QB transfer
Robinson will open spring drills this afternoon with a fresh face bearing a familiar name.
Rising senior QB Zain Gilmore, who threw for more than 2,100 yards at Blake last season, registered at Robinson Tuesday afternoon, Knights coach Mike DePue confirmed. DePue said he was told Gilmore will be eligible to practice this spring but can’t compete in the jamboree.
He’s expected to provide a second-generation surge to a Knights squad projected to contend for the Class 5A, District 8 crown. Gilmore’s dad, who has the same name, ran for more than 2,300 yards for Robinson in 1998 and was named Florida Mr. Football.
The elder Gilmore went on to play at Missouri, ending his career as the Tigers’ 10th all-time leading rusher. His son will compete with incumbent Vidal Woodruff for the Knights’ starting job, with the loser certain to find a spot in Robinson’s multi-dimensional offense.
Staff writers Joey Knight and Laura Keeley contributed to this report.