Hernando coach John Palmer went into last season with the thought of starting Cleve Pope under center, but an ankle injury along with inconsistent play from the junior signal caller derailed those plans.
By the end of the Leopards’ playoff campaign, Pope, Tyrail Hawkins and freshman Rashad Hart were all taking snaps, leaving the position wide open this spring for a team that is again expected to challenge for a postseason berth.
Pope, a rising senior, appears to be the frontrunner, taking all the snaps on the team’s second day of practice. Hart, who made a play for the position last season because of his overwhelming athleticism, wasn’t at practice because of slipping grades. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Hart wowed coaches and opponents alike with his strong arm, quick feet and playmaking ability when things broke down on offense.
Hawkins, a rising junior, will see some playing time at quarterback, but Palmer believes Hernando is better equipped with him at slot back.
“We’re kind of settled on Cleve right now,” Palmer said. “But we have packages set up for Tyrail in certain situations.”
If Hart gets back on the field this spring, it will be interesting to see how the competition plays out. With 500 yards and four touchdowns rushing between the three in 2010, almost exclusively from the quarterback position, it’s obvious the trio can be dangerous in the Leopards’ attack.
“I have about seven kids left who were at my first-ever practice, and I ask them, ‘What’s the difference from then and now?’ And they say it’s night and day with the program. That’s just the way it is. It’s the evolution of the program.” — Anclote coach Matt Wicks, whose program is entering its third season
Keep an eye on | Jerome Samuels, Sunlake RB
Samuels has the size and speed to put up big numbers in the ground attack and complement fellow senior-to-be Rashaud Daniels, who led all Sunlake running backs with 543 yards in 2010.
Samuels, at 6-feet, 205 pounds, had 182 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries and will look to expand his role in the offense in 2011.
“He has power and deceptive speed,” coach Bill Browning said. “He’s not a blazer, but at that size, he can put them up and lay them down.”
Along with the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Daniels, who is equally dangerous in the backfield or split out wide, the Seahawks should feature a potent thunder-and-lightning attack in 2011 to follow up on the program’s most successful season (8-2).
Newcomers bolster Sharks
Anclote has a couple new faces this spring. Austin Rumer played sparingly last season as a freshman for Ridgewood, and Chris Gregory transferred in the winter from Gulf.
Rumer, a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, will help a linebacking corps that loses OLB Travis Hendrix (24 tackles) to graduation. Gregory — 10 catches, 132 yards for the Bucs in 2010 — will provide a nice target opposite rising senior Dondre Daley (18 catches, 353 yards), who is receiving recruiting interest from USF, Ball State and FAU.
“I can’t figure out if I want (Rumer’s) hand in the dirt or him filling at linebacker, and Chris is just starting to find where he fits in but he’s going to help us out greatly,” Wicks said.
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 response.
Wednesday’s question: Last play of the game. Your team is on the 50, you trail 26-21. Which quarterback do you want taking the snap, and who is he handing off or throwing the long one to?
• You could have any QB hand the ball off to (St. Petersburg Catholic’s) Ryan Green. He had a touchdown run of over 50 yards in I believe every game last year except for against Robinson. That is including against (Berkeley Prep’s) Nelson Agholor, (Holy Trinity Episcopal’s) Marcus Maye and Jesuit’s defense. Maye and Agholor are both big-time prospects and Ryan Green out ran both of them. — Justin Miller
Next up: Okay, the pads go on today. Who’s the first person you plan on leveling?
What’s your call? Go here, become a fan and give us your thoughts.
Compiled by staff writer Bryan Burns, and correspondents Andy Villamarzo and Derek J. LaRiviere