After a few warmups last week, most North Suncoast football teams play their spring games or jamborees Thursday or Friday. Here’s a quick primer on the teams, players and positions to follow as spring practice concludes.
Five intriguing teams
Fivay: The Falcons were one of Tampa Bay’s best stories last fall after making the playoffs in their first year of all-varsity competition. Now coach Chris Taylor’s team must show it’s for real and ready to remain one of the top programs on the North Suncoast.
Weeki Wachee: The Hornets have been building for their first year of varsity football. Coach Mark Lee has some size and talent, but will it be enough for the young program to make a statement early?
Hudson: Though the Cobras’ back-to-back winless seasons have taken a toll, new coach Mark Kantor has started to energize the program. The roster’s size is up, and a strong showing tonight would be another sign of growth.
Wiregrass Ranch: Injuries and a new district decimated the Bulls during last year’s winless season. This week will provide an update on Wiregrass’ revamped defense and what that can mean for 2012.
Central: The Bears will make plenty of changes from their winless 2011 campaign. That includes a new, no-huddle offense that bears keeping an eye on this week.
Four players to watch
QB Ethan Weilant, Land O’Lakes: Weilant was Land O’Lakes’ backup last fall but is the heir apparent starter this year. The spring game against Fivay will give a look at how close Weilant and the Gators are to starting a new playoff streak.
RB Willie Barrett, Anclote: The Sharks have gushed about their 6-foot rusher, who averaged 6.9 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns during his sophomore season.
RB Dan Barber, Mitchell: The halfback starred at the start of last season before a high-ankle injury limited him the rest of the way. Now that he’s healthy again, what can Barber — and the Mustangs’ run game — do?
LB Luke McLeod, Springstead: The powerful linebacker had injury problems last year but was impressive in spring ball and is drawing Division I looks. A big game will help solidify him as one of Hernando County’s top defensive players.
Three key positions
Sunlake’s linemen: The Seahawks earned their first trip to the playoffs thanks to the North Suncoast’s biggest and best offensive line. Most of those players are gone, leaving Aaron Protch and She’ron Wilkins to lead the way. “Hopefully," coach Bill Browning said, “we'll have more answers than questions after the classic.”
Pasco’s quarterbacks: Coach Tom McHugh has said the Pirates will have to make some changes without UF walk-on Jacob Guy under center. Friday’s game against Zephyrhills will show glimpses of that. Jajuan Henry, Bowman Archibald and Grant Starling shared snaps during spring drills.
Zephyrhills’ backfield: The Bulldogs must replace do-it-all Kent State recruit Jamal Roberts, who accounted for 26 of his team’s 38 touchdowns. How Zephyrhills moves on will start to become clearer Friday. Keep an eye on Jordan Roberts and Malik Mutcherson.
Two trends to remember
Gulf’s growing numbers: The Buccaneers had a core group in the weight room all offseason, and their 51 players during the first few days of practice doubled their numbers from the 2011 spring. Can that result in more wins for Dustin Bush, Chris Klyap and company?
Wesley Chapel’s dropping numbers: The Wildcats are still feeling the effects of having 12 seniors sign to play college football. Wesley Chapel has some talent, including QB Ty Tanner, but depth and a roster around 30 players is a major concern.
River Ridge will look like the most impressive team in the west Pasco County jamboree Thursday and show that last year’s turnaround 6-4 season was a sign of things to come.
Pasco’s spring game against Zephyrhills on Friday will feature a radio broadcast online at 6 Joycasting.com. Coverage for the 7 p.m. game starts at 6:45.
Spring game slate
• Fivay at Land O’Lakes, 7
• Mitchell, River Ridge, Hudson, Gulf at Anclote, 6
• Zephyrhills at Pasco, 7
• Wiregrass Ranch, Wesley Chapel at Sunlake, 7
• Weeki Wachee at Springstead, 7
• Central at Dixie Hollins, 7