MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
NEW PORT RICHEY — Gulf has joined a handful of area schools — Anclote, Hudson and Zephyrhills — to report much higher attendance this spring.
The Buccaneers have had 51 players at practice over the first few days, coach Tom Carter said. Last year’s first session drew 25 players.
“People seem ready to start working and playing and get ready for the season,” Carter said.
A core of about 17 players has led the team’s rebirth since a 2-8 season. Carter said that group, which includes starters from last year’s squad plus a few junior varsity players, has helped change the mentality in the locker room. A handful of the school’s other top athletes have also come out for football this spring.
One of Carter’s toughest tasks will be to fill the giant void left by Jeff Kruse, a two-way all-conference lineman who signed with Cornell. Carter said he expects QB Chris Klyap, lineman Dustin Bush and DB/RB Travis Thomas to assume Kruse’s leadership role, but replacing that kind of talent on the line will be much harder.
“I don’t know at this moment that one individual person is going to do it,” Carter said. “We’re going to do it as a complete unit up front.”
Wiregrass Ranch seems revitalized after its 0-10 season. The Bulls have had about 70 players at practice, and a few new coaches have sparked a fresh start.
“It’s good, man,” coach Jeremy Shobe said. “It’s intense.”
Defensive coordinator Adamm Oliver is a former Ridgewood star who earned second-team all-ACC honors as a defensive end at Georgia Tech. The Bulls are abandoning the 3-4 defense they adapted from Armwood last season and are replacing it with multiple looks and multiple sets.
The offense will also look different under coordinator Mike Lawrence, a former running back at Kansas State.
“The biggest thing,” Shobe said, “is these kids are buying in.”
Junior Damion Hicks has transferred from Gulf to River Ridge, Bucs coach Tom Carter confirmed. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound TE/DE was an all-North Suncoast honorable mention as a sophomore and received accolades from the IMG Madden Football Academy. Hicks could help fill the void left at River Ridge by TE/DE Dylan Rutledge, a Stetson recruit.
Ball State became the latest school to offer Pasco ATH Janarion Grant when the Cardinals offered him a scholarship, Pirates coach Tom McHugh confirmed Thursday. The receiver/defensive back was the Times’ co-North Suncoast player of the year last fall and now holds eight offers, including USF, Texas Tech and Rutgers.
Ball State also stopped by Fivay to see TE Kevin Faulkner and ATH Willis Reeves.
Florida coaches made stops at Nature Coast and Springstead to check out their prospects. UF invited Sharks sophomore DE Rohan Blackwood to go to Gainesville to meet coach Will Muschamp.
USF, UCF, Georgia Southern and Harvard have visited the Eagles to scope out OL Will Allen and LB Luke McLeod. Allen, a 6-foot-7, 293-pound junior, took an unofficial visit to Duke over the weekend and recently spoke with Vanderbilt coach James Franklin.
Stat of the day
263 Tackles last fall by Land O’Lakes’ top four defensive players — all of whom will continue football in college. The Gators’ top returning tackler is defensive end Shaheed Salmon, who had 54 tackles and three sacks during his sophomore season.
Tweet of the day
Wiregrass Ranch lineman Austin Stroup seems happy with the Bulls’ progress:
@astrouppy: “day two of wrhs football was even better (than) yesterday !! loving the intensity #BULLNATION”