The North Suncoast boasts plenty of talented pass rushers, including a handful of Division I prospects. Here’s our best guess at who will lead the area in sacks in the fall:
1. Joey Ivie, Pasco: There’s a reason the 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive lineman has a half dozen SEC offers.
2. Robert Hill Bronson, Hernando: An underrated part of the Leopards’ line had 121/2 sacks his junior year.
3. Darren Hambrick, Hernando: The tenacious pass rusher has a few Division I offers with more likely to come.
4. Rohan Blackwood, Nature Coast: The D-I athlete is still raw but has begun to hone the skills to become a force.
5. Shaheed Salmon, Land O’Lakes: The powerful prospect was among the team’s leaders with three sacks as a sophomore. He’ll have more chances this fall.
6. Nick Hoffman, Sunlake: The Seahawks’ top returning lineman will have to step up this season.
7. Brice Sesler, Fivay: He and teammate Willis Reeves will battle for the team lead.
8. Luke McLeod, Springstead: The D-I prospect has the size and talent for a monster senior season.
9. Terrell Martin, Anclote: The 5-foot-11 linebacker can fly off the edge and remains one of the Sharks’ most important players.
Leopards have faith in guys up front
One of the biggest reasons for Hernando’s push to its first district title since 1997 was the offensive line, which paved the way for 3,400 yards and 44 rushing touchdowns and a run to the postseason. Coaches are optimistic that the fall’s offensive line will be as successful.
“So far the offensive line has been very solid,” coach John Palmer said. “… We’re getting better on technique on a daily basis right now.”
Palmer said his team has potential to be even bigger up front. Canaan Swackard (listed at 6 feet, 255 pounds last fall) and Jesse Gaudin (6-3, 235) have helped solidify the line heading into tonight’s spring game against Clearwater Central Catholic.
Other notable standouts include FB/OLB Omar Hawkins and receivers Jacob Englemeyer, Troy Grant and Dylan Bailey.
Wildcats looking for leaders
With numbers down and a large senior class gone at Wesley Chapel, the Wildcats are looking for players to emerge in the spring with their actions and words.
“It puts a lot of pressure on our shoulders,” two-way lineman Leny Vega said. “But it makes you step up as leaders.”
The offensive line should be a strong point, coach Ben Alford said, with Hunter Robinson among the spring standouts. Alford pointed to fullback Nathan Love and tight end/linebacker Lawrence Harbottle Fraticelli as other potential breakout players heading into next week’s jamboree with Sunlake and Wiregrass Ranch.
Stat of the day
83: Tackles by Zephyrhills’ Michael Smith during his freshman year. No Bulldog had more tackles than the 5-foot-10, 165-pound linebacker.
Hernando ATH Tyrail Hawkins picked up his first major offer Thursday, courtesy of Ball State, Leopards coach John Palmer said.
Hawkins, a first-team all-North Suncoast pick last fall, scored 19 touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,200 yards as a junior. He also has an offer from Georgia Southern.
Three Nature Coast players plan to sign next week, Sharks coach Charles Liggett said:
• DL Darius Stewart will sign with Hinds Community College in Mississippi. The 6-4, 360-pound tackle had 37 tackles and a sack last fall.
• OL Robert Wadsworth (6-3, 254) will sign with Geneva (Pa.) College.
• OL Lance Ledoux (6-3, 260) will sign with Bethel in Minnesota.