Gibbs had some defections in the offseason, most notably safety Albert Laskett and quarterback Patric Jones. But during the first full week of spring practices, new coach Rick Kravitz said more than 50 players have participated.
Track athletes Jacquez President and Maurice Hall have joined the team after last week’s state track meet. And Palm Harbor University transfer quarterback Brevet Killett has been working out and could be the replacement for Jones.
“It’s a good start,” Kravitz said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. Small steps.”
One player who has caught Kravitz’s eye is rising senior Undre Ballard, who has been working on the offensive and defensive lines.
“Kid’s getting some looks,” Kravitz said. “He’s 6-foot-4, 260. He’s qualified. And he’s looked good so far.”
After using six quarterbacks last season, Boca Ciega may have some stability. Last fall it got so bad for coach Antez Brinson that he decided to move up 14-year-old junior varsity quarterback Savion Smith for the final five games of the season. The Pirates won four of their last five with Smith.
Smith, a rising sophomore, will compete with Jaire Balloon this spring for the starting spot. Smith will also get opportunities at wide receiver and defensive back.
“He’s going to be a good one,” Brinson said. “He’s our quarterback of the future. We didn’t want to rush him last season because we wanted him to get some quality reps with the JV. But there came a point where we had to bring him up and see what he could do.”
Aside from developing Smith, Brinson said the focus this spring is establishing depth. Spring practice started with about 55 players, but attrition has whittled that number to 42-45.
“We’re going to have the skill guys,” Brinson said. “But last year we only had about 32-35 guys; we didn’t have enough depth. Now we have to identify the guys who are going to give us depth.”
Loaded at linebacker
If there’s one position where Clearwater Central Catholic is stocked it is linebacker.
All three starters — Kyle Brittain, Caanan Brown and Ethan Thompson — return from a defense that recorded a school-record seven shutouts and helped the Marauders advance to the Class 3A state semifinals.
CCC got a boost when Connor Dorris transferred from Palm Harbor University this semester. Dorris’ arrival allows the Marauders to use the versatility of some of the other linebackers in two spots where the roster is thin: defensive back and wide receiver. Brittain, Brown and Thompson will line up at receiver on occasion. Brittain and Brown will spend some time in the secondary.
“That’s a pretty darn good group we got there at linebacker,” coach John Davis said. “They can all do some different things, and we’re going to have to line them up in other spots to help us as many ways as possible. They’re all talented enough to do it, too.”
Clearwater Central Catholic defensive lineman Justus Reed was offered by Missouri and Ohio State on Wednesday. Lakewood offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn got an offer from Michigan State on Thursday.
Photo: Gibbs' Undre Ballard
Compiled by staff writers Rodney Page and Bob Putnam.