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ST. PETERSBURG - Gibbs’ Emmanuel Stewart tore the ACL in his left knee during the second game of last season.
He is back on the practice field for the first time since that injury, and according to second-year coach Antonio Knox, he’s at full strength.
“We won’t let him play in the (spring) game,’’ Knox said. “It’s just not worth it. But there’s no dropoff (from last fall).’’
Not only is Stewart back, but he’s expected to carry an even bigger load in the fall. Stewart will compete this spring with junior Pat Jones at quarterback.
“He’s going to be the main focal point of what we do,’’ Knox said. “He’ll play running back, he’ll play slot (receiver), he’ll play cornerback.
We’re even messing around with him playing quarterback. That makes him another threat.
“He’s the heart and soul of this team. And they don’t think he can throw, but he’s got an arm.’’
Because of the injury, colleges are waiting to see how Stewart recovers. Knox said Stewart has gotten interest from West Virginia, Florida Atlantic and Minnesota, which came by the school Wednesday morning.
Banged up early
The injury bug took a bite out of Seminole’s offense this spring.
Quarterback Noah Weller, a two-year starter, is rehabbing a back injury and likely will be out this month. That means freshmen Aaron Dever and Demarcus Jackson will take the majority of snaps at quarterback.
Dever was the junior varsity quarterback last season. Jackson is a transfer from Valdosta, Ga.
Seminole also is down at running back with Devin Kalck recovering from a torn ACL sustained last season. Beau Browning, Justin Coley and Trevor Ralph will get the bulk of the carries this spring.
“We’re a little thin right now,” coach Sam Roper said. “But we still have some guys to work with.”
If you believe Knox, Gibbs has the fastest player in the county in Trayvon Bromell. The rising senior is in the state track championships this weekend in the 100 and 200 meters, after winning the 100 at regionals in 10.56 seconds. He’ll play slot receiver and kick returner for the football team.
“He’s a football player who runs track,’’ Knox said.
Knox said West Virginia has shown interest in the speedster.
The Gladiators might also have the biggest player in the county. Senior offensive lineman Davarus Clark, an Admiral Farragut transfer who didn’t play last year, is 6 feet 9, 385 pounds.
“He’s a basketball player also so he has good footwork,’’ Knox said. “He can play. He just has to get back in the groove of things.’’
Hard to overlook
St. Petersburg rising senior tight end Jeremy Kerr has started to land on several schools’ radars. He already has an offer from Miami, and has received interest from USF, Central Florida, Florida State and Missouri.
Kerr started out as a defensive lineman, but injuries at tight end forced him to move last year.
“Coach (Joe Fabrizio) told me I was moving,” Kerr said with a laugh. “I didn’t ask. But I used to play catcher so I had the hand-eye coordination.”
Kerr was an obvious choice. He is 6-6, 240 pounds and growing.
“Every time I look at him he gets bigger,” Fabrizio said. “He’s like a Labrador retriever. He comes in and gives you a hug every morning with this big ol’ smile on his face.”
With a big target at tight end, will Fabrizio open up his passing game a little more?
“I promised him that once a game at least he’ll get a pass thrown to him,” Fabrizio said. “But he’s bigger than me. He’ll tell me when it’s time to throw him the ball.”
Scheduling the best
Gibbs will play Class 7A state champion Manatee in its spring game and has added Class 6A state champ Armwood for a fall preseason game.
“We’re laying the groundwork,” Knox said. “I’m not afraid. What’s the worst that can happen? We’re only going to get better playing teams like that.”
“It’s a little different this season. We’re no longer the underdog. The expectations are higher and there’s more of a target on our back. But I have so many weapons to work with on offense, so many receivers. I feel like the sky is the limit for us.” — East Lake quarterback Pete DiNovo, on going into the season as the county’s top team after advancing to the Class 8A region final and nearly upsetting defending state champion Plant last season.
Rodney Page and Bob Putnam, Times staff writers