TAMPA — Thanks to a new arrival, second-year Jefferson coach Jeremy Earle has been digging through the archives.
Trevor Register, a rising senior transfer from Tampa Catholic, enrolled at Jefferson in January and brought with him 592 yards of rushing offense that he amassed as part of the Crusaders’ two-back attack.
This spring, it’s rising senior and Dragons incumbent starter Shaquille Speights (845 rushing yards last year) whom Register is using as a partner.
And, yes, if Earle has his way, it will be a partnership and not a competition.
“I’ve been looking in my old playbooks at my two-back offense stuff and have really had to start getting creative with that,” said Earle, who was Jefferson’s offensive coordinator becoming head coach. “Because they both deserve and need to be on the field.”
Along with Speights, rising junior quarterback Deiondre Porter, who passed for 1,890 yards and 17 touchdowns last year, is back. He’ll have plenty of new targets, as Earle cited wide receiver as the position where he was most eagerly looking for new faces to emerge. Outside of Speights, no one on Jefferson’s roster caught more than six passes in 2011.
“So much of our offense is predicated on the wide receivers being so active,” Earle said. “Not only in the passing game, but we run a lot of screen game with them and a lot of different things with them. So we have these guys who are very talented, they’re as talented a group as we’ve ever had, but they’ve never actually strapped it on and been counted on to run out there as first-teamers when the lights are on.”
Rising juniors Derrick Ingram, Ventell Bryant and Chavez Pownell, along with rising seniors Jonathan Moore and Michael Tiller, are among those in the mix.
And while they’ve yet to make significant contributions on the football field, Moore and Tiller had success this spring for Jefferson’s track team. Tiller competed in the Class 3A, Region 2 high jump, while Moore placed third in the 800 meters, 10th in the high jump at the state meet, and was on the sixth-place 4x400 relay team as well as the 13th-place 4x800 relay.
Running track in the offseason is part of the master plan, Earle said, as football assistant coach Jason Lane also coaches the track team.
“Our guys come back off that track and they’re a different guy,” Earle said. “Yeah, we don’t get to work football-specific stuff, but daggone, how much time do you need to learn how to run a curl route and block and that kind of stuff?
“Whereas mentally, it makes them mentally tough, and competition, they’re running and running fast. We like those attributes.”
Rebuilding from the roots
Replacing two of the most successful skill players in school history is no easy task, but that’s exactly what Plant City is faced with as former quarterback Bennie Coney and running back Dazmond Patterson are at Cincinnati and Ohio, respectively. And both positions are up for grabs.
At quarterback, last year’s No. 2 wide receiver, Landon Galloway, and Nick Rodriguez are competing for the starting job. Rodriguez did not play last year to focus on baseball but replaced Coney in 2010 when he was suspended.
“I just missed the whole atmosphere with the boys,” said Rodriguez, who started the final four games of 2010 and was 53-for-96 for 954 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions in that season. “Everyone comes together like a family, that’s what we preach every day.”
The plan, coach Wayne Ward said, is to do a running back by committee with rising junior Hassan Bailey and rising senior Ke’Shawn Forte in the mix. The Raiders also have two new coordinators: Hayward Bryant came over from King to run the offense and coach quarterbacks, and Marcus Governor, last year’s linebacker coach, has been promoted to defensive coordinator.
“It’s the spring, who knows,” Ward said. “Right now we’re just trying to recreate our identity.”