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Thu. May 29, 2014 | Rodney Page and Bob Putnam

HomeTeam Huddle: Gibbs draws college recruiters

Gibbs has been a popular place for college recruiters this spring. 

Coach Rick Kravitz, a longtime college assistant, has hosted several coaches and has plenty of players for them to look at. 

Topping the list is defensive back Craig Watts, a rising junior who holds several offers, including one from Ohio State. Watts will rarely leave the field in the fall. Aside from defensive back, he’ll also carry the ball and return kicks. 

“There are a lot of schools in the mix for Craig,” Kravitz said. “And there’s going to be even more.”

The most interesting player this spring is defensive back/receiver Marquez Walls. Without ever playing a full varsity game, the rising sophomore already has offers from Louisville and UAB. He played a full season on the junior varsity and despite scoring eight touchdowns and dominating defensively, Walls was not promoted until the final game of the season.

“We wanted to keep him down there and gain experience,” Kravitz said. 

Walls will surely be on display tonight in the jamboree against Northeast and Tarpon Springs.

Some other players who have caught the eye of scouts, according to Kravitz: offensive linemen Roy Williams and L’Dre Barnes, linebacker Javon Morgan, defensive end Troy Killens and cornerback Dorian Jackson. On the down side, Gibbs will be without as many as 15 players due to injury and grades for tonight’s jamboree. The Gladiators will suit up about 27 players.

“We’re only dressing 10 players who had varsity experience from last year,’’ Kravitz said.

He expects nearly all of the players to return in the fall. 

Shucking their roots

For the past 24 seasons, Osceola has featured the wing-T formation, which has become as identifiable with the program as the spears on their orange helmets. 

The Warriors are not getting away from what they do best. But there is a significant wrinkle with the pistol (shotgun) being used to run out of the traditional wing-T stuff. 

“We went to a clinic and heard a guy talk about using nothing but the wing-T out of the pistol,” said Osceola coach George Palmer, who is entering his 25th season with the program. “It just seemed to mesh with a lot of the things we were already doing.”

The pistol offense is defined by misdirections and options, similar to the wing-T. The quarterback takes snaps almost exclusively out of the shotgun formation. The running backs line up behind the quarterback, not beside him.

The offense will run more smoothly thanks to the return of quarterback Ryan Allan, a junior-to-be.

“The offense has looked good so far,” Allan said. “We’re getting a feel for it and it gives us more balance. We’re going to shock some people.”

Rising senior Wilan Harvey will be counted as one of the main ball carriers, and is the top returning rusher from last year. Jamil Morris and Quadarius Patterson, who combined for almost 1,800 yards rushing last season, are graduating. An intriguing target could be Darien Hooker, a 6-foot-4 basketball player who played football for the first time last season and will be used as a tight end. 

“We’re still playing around with the offense, and we’ll see how things go in the spring game,” Palmer said.   

Change of pace

East Lake’s balanced, ball-control offense still is the same. What has changed, at least this spring, is how quickly the Eagles run it. 

A hurry-up, no-huddle attack has been installed, in part because of the personnel. Only four starters return from an offense that scored a school-record 603 points last season. Among those who graduated are left tackle Mason Cole (Michigan) and receiver Artavis Scott (Clemson). 

The offensive line returns both starting guards, Zach Castle and Julian Santos, though Santos is moving to tackle to replace Cole. Jake Hudson is back at quarterback. So is receiver George Campbell.

“It’s just a new wrinkle, something different we can throw out at a defense,” coach Bob Hudson said. “We’ll see how it works in the spring game and go from there.”

In the no-huddle, the offense gets to the line of scrimmage as soon as the officials spot the ball after a play. Defenses have little time to substitute or alter schemes. 

“We’re picking up the offense pretty quick,” Campbell said. “It’s different. The pace is a lot faster. But we’ve grown a lot and we keep improving. There’s motivation for all of us because we want to keep the momentum going from what we had last year and strive to get that ring.”

Friday’s games 

• Gibbs, Tarpon Springs at Northeast, 7 

• DeSoto County at Boca Ciega, 7

• Lakewood at Ocala Vanguard, 7

• East Lake at Osceola, 7:30

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