HomeTeam Huddle: Mitchell RB fills big shoes; Land O'Lakes soph looks to spark running game

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Wed. May 11, 2011 | Times Staff

HomeTeam Huddle: Mitchell RB fills big shoes; Land O'Lakes soph looks to spark running game

Two-minute drill  | RB Freddie Jones, Mitchell

It’s one thing to step into a new role, but Mitchell running back Freddie Jones must replace quite possibly the best player in program history. We talked to the rising senior about spring practice and the contrast in coaching styles of Brian Wachtel and new (old?) coach Scott Schmitz.

So how do you feel about replacing Ricky Trinidad?
It’s a big job, with Ricky being the school’s leading rusher and setting a lot of records here. I’m just going to try to keep it up, because you know we like to run here. So you have to be a good running back.

Talk about playing for Schmitz. What are the initial differences you see between him and Wachtel?
They’re kind of the same, except Coach Schmitz is kind of laid-back and Coach Wachtel was up-tempo and just always hyped during practices. (Wachtel) was kind of a big help out there keeping the intensity up.

I see you guys have a new helmet color, going from black to gold. How do you like the new look?
I like the new gold we got and the new emblem we got all looks nice together. It will go together nicely with the new uniforms we’ll be getting. We’ve had new uniforms almost every year I’ve been here, so I’m really liking the new look here for my senior year.

You’re heading into your final season. What kind of expectations have you set for yourself this fall?
I’m trying to have the best season that I can have and help out the team the most. My goal ever since I’ve been playing here is to have a 1,000-yard rushing season. It’s my last year coming up so I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.

No weaknesses
Area teams hoping to take advantage of a Pasco offensive line that lost all five starters from 2010 to graduation may want to look for other ways to attack the Pirates.

Pasco may not have any starting experience returning, but all of the offensive linemen the Pirates will field this season got plenty of reps last year. Pasco was able to work a number of backups into its blowout victories in 2010. The Pirates defeated seven of its 10 regular-season opponents by more than 32 points.

“I know that physically (the offensive line) is stronger than they were last year,” Pasco coach Tom McHugh said. “They’re not going to be as big because they’re still young, but man for man, position for position, we’re probably a little stronger except maybe for the center. I feel pretty good about their strength and how hard they’re working.”

Keep an eye on | RB Harrison Wood, Land O’Lakes
The Gators were the most prolific passing team on the North Suncoast in 2010, throwing 286 passes in 11 games (26 per outing) for over 2,700 yards and 36 touchdowns.

The running game was another story, however. The Gators didn’t have a single player rush for more than 500 yards, and quarterback Stevie Weatherford was the team’s top ground gainer after amassing 476 yards.

Look for Land O’Lakes to show more balance in 2011, one reason being the emergence of Harrison Wood, a rising junior.

Wood averaged 5.9 yards a carry but toted the pigskin just 32 times for 188 yards and a score. Through the first couple days of spring practice, Gators coach Brian Wachtel has been impressed with the scat back.

“He’s done some good things in practice and just kind of looking forward to seeing him build,” Wachtel said.

Wood stands 5 feet 9 and has proven to be an elusive figure in the Gators’ backfield this spring, which Wachtel hopes carries over to the fall.

“He’s very good at cutting,” Wachtel said. “He’s more of a shifty-type running back that finds that seam and hits it.”

Strictly speaking
There’s a plethora of guys that have stepped up …from learning what we want them to do, learning the systems on offense and defense and the amount of time these guys are not only putting in on the field but off the field, I think, for us as a coaching staff, has been so important and valuable because they’re picking everything up very fast.” — Wachtel, describing what he’s liked so far in his first spring on the Gators’ sideline.

What they’re saying
Every day, we pose a question to our readers on our Facebook page. They’re keen to offer their two cents … and we’re printing the best responses.

Tuesday’s question: What football team that was down on its luck in 2010 will bounce back with a winning record this season? Extra points if you tell us how.

• Anclote, hands down. With a couple years under their belt and the talent on the team and coaching staff …Look out Pasco County! — Marcus Neeson

• Anclote. They have a lot of talent,, they were just young. And if you sleep on them they will punch you in the mouth. With the new districts they could wind up in the playoff race. — Ty’Shon Peters

Next up: Hillsborough’s spring games/jamborees are May 20, while the North Suncoast and Pinellas play most of their games the following week. Which game are you most looking forward to?

What’s your call? Go here, become a fan and give us your thoughts.

Compiled by staff writer Bryan Burns and correspondent Andy Villamarzo.

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