SEFFNER — If Wednesday’s inaugural spring workout was any indication, the reigning Class 6A state champs still possess swagger, strength and sleekness in bulk.
Seasoning is another matter. Armwood is greener than FieldTurf.
“We say this every four or five years, but if you want to beat Armwood this is the time you want to beat us,” said coach Sean Callahan, whose team engaged in a crisp succession of drills Wednesday in blue shorts, gray T-shirts and helmets.
“We’ve got really talented young kids at the skills positions, but we’ve got a lot of work to do on the linemen. The program’s there, we’ve got people there. That’s what coaching’s about.”
Armwood lost 14 starters from last season’s 15-0 team, including every starting offensive and defensive lineman. Additionally, the top two college prospects — ATH Alvin Bailey and S Leon McQuay III — will bypass most drills until completing track season at Saturday’s Class 3A meet.
But based on the eye test alone, the Hawks still are teeming with talent. The most imposing specimen on the field Wednesday: 6-foot-5, 245-pound rising sophomore DE Byron Cowart, on whom Callahan is extremely high.
Other newcomers coaches suggest are poised to break out: rising junior receivers Austin Gallon and Talvin Bailey (Alvin’s brother), and RB Caylen Holloway. Meantime, the hair-trigger release of 6-5 QB Darryl Richardson appeared in October form Wednesday.
“I’m not saying we’re better defensively. We’ve got a chance to have a great secondary,” Callahan said. “We’ve got a chance to have a very good defensive line.”
Brandon coach has eye for details
It’s all about the details for new Brandon coach Dean Eychner. Armed with a laminated practice sheet, complete with activities scheduled down to the minute, Eychner began his first head coaching job Wednesday. He had worked under longtime Hillsborough head coach Earl Garcia as defensive coordinator since 1998.
He brought a few familiar faces with him, as James Grant (a Brandon alum, in fact) will coach the running backs and handle strength and conditioning, and John Cartiglia will coach the wide receivers. Both coached the same positions at Hillsborough.
In Brandon, Eychner inherits a team that has made the playoffs in back-to-back years, including a 5-6 campaign last fall that saw the Eagles lose to Tampa Bay Tech 37-0 in the Class 7A region quarterfinals.
“Everything is new right now, even though this school is about 100 years old,” Eychner said. “It’s been stale for a little while, so we’re making the effort to make everything fresh.”
That includes the helmets — gone are the Eagle decals that adorned the sides in past years, and in their place will be white numbers, much like Alabama sports — and the facilities, right down to the storage closets.
“We’re doing some things that are bringing back some pride,” Eychner said. “Part of what we’re selling is the details.”
Fenton back on the field
It was strange, Mike Fenton said, putting on green Tampa Catholic apparel in his Jefferson office. But Tuesday, while Hillsborough public schools were still waiting for their official first day of spring football, Fenton made the drive over from the school he led to the Class 3A 2010 state championship to his alma mater, where he is the new quarterbacks coach.
“It’s been like going-home week,” Fenton said. “I kind of got in there and jumped in with both feet.”
Fenton’s priority is working with rising junior quarterback Chivarsky Corbett, the Crusaders’ starter the past two seasons.
“He’s very raw, but he’s still young,” Fenton said. “He’s just got tremendous upside. I’ve been fortunate through the years to have some pretty great quarterbacks, Quentin (Williams, the 2010 Florida Mr. Football) being the last one of them, so I told Chivarsky,
‘You’ve got big shoes to fill, but I think you can do it.’ ”
Much is expected of Corbett this season, as assistant coach David Lewis told him that the team was on his back in the post-practice huddle. The 6-foot-5 Corbett said he felt more comfortable taking on a leadership role for the upcoming season.
“This year, it’s all on me,” said Corbett, who plays basketball as his primary sport and recently received his first offer from USF, “and I’m ready to take it.”
In terms of afternoon traffic, Southern Cal (and former Bucs) defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin ran the bumper-to-bumper gantlet Wednesday. Kiffin was overheard saying that after his stop in Seffner, he would visit Wharton (in New Tampa) and Plant (in South Tampa). That’s 41 miles.
On the Web
Check out our two-minute drill video with Wharton quarterback Chase Litton at tampabay.com/hometeam.
Joey Knight and Laura Keeley, Times staff writers