WESLEY CHAPEL — With 131 total tackles last season — nearly 50 more than the next best Wiregrass Ranch defender — linebacker Jaye Miner knows a thing or two about standing out in a crowd. During the Bulls’ spring practice Tuesday, the junior continued to do so on his feet, sporting bright blue and red Superman cleats.
Much to his dismay, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound defender won’t be wearing them in Wiregrass Ranch’s upcoming spring jamboree against Sunlake and Wesley Chapel on Thursday.
“We have to wear the game cleats. They’re kind of ugly,” he said, laughing. “I wish I could wear the Supermans.”
Still, Miner will likely be hard to miss.
The rising senior will be charged with leading a Wiregrass Ranch defense that graduated many of its starters from last season. But Miner — who has offers from Marshall, Georgia State, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, FAU, South Alabama and Mercer — is looking forward to the challenge.
Just a year removed from back-to-back winless seasons, the Bulls finished 4-6 in 2013. They lost two games by seven points or fewer.
With all of last year’s starting linebackers gone except for Miner, it could be tough for Wiregrass Ranch to build upon last year’s successes. Miner, though, already likes what he sees from the new corp.
“Most of our linebacker corp now are sophomores,” he said. “I was just glad that they were able to step up and take a bigger role, be able to learn their playbook and fill in for the spots that we needed.”
With much of the defense and the top three rushers and receivers from last year not returning, coach Mike Lawrence said he’s fortunate to have a guy like Miner returning to lead. But in all the attention the Division I recruit will likely continue to get, Lawrence doesn’t want his other contributors to get lost.
“(Miner’s) a big piece of the puzzle,” Lawrence said. “But yet there’s 10 more guys on the field that help Jaye get to where he needs to, make him look like that superstar, which he is.”
Quarterbacks compete at Wesley Chapel
Last season Wesley Chapel finished 0-10, and youthfulness, coach Tico Hernandez said, was a big reason. Hernandez said he hopes returning many of his Wildcat starters will help reverse some of last year’s outcomes.
Sophomore Scott Edwards started all 10 games at quarterback last season, throwing for 432 yards and three touchdowns. Hernandez said Edwards will get the start in Thursday's jamboree, but he’ll do so with Austin Sessums nipping at his heels.
Sessums, a freshman, had just two pass attempts last season as a backup, completing one. Hernandez said he likes what he’s seen from the 5-foot-6 quarterback in the offseason — not just for his own development, but for Edwards’, too.
“Competition brings out the best in everyone,” Hernandez said. “Typically when you have two guys competing for one spot, there’s animosity and stuff like that. These guys do a really good job of working together because they want to be successful. They want what’s best for the team.”
Big things expected from Terriers’ backup
All eyes will be on Miami commit Dwayne Lawson as he returns for his third year as Hillsborough’s starting quarterback. It’s the guy behind Lawson, though, that coach Earl Garcia thinks could have a breakout season.
Lawrence Dawsey was the starting punter for the Terriers last season. This year, Dawsey will serve as the starting punter, starting kicker, backup quarterback and maybe do some receiving on the side.
“Lawrence is going to be instrumental,” Garcia said. “He’s going to have a big year for us.”
Dawsey, whose father Lawrence played for Florida State and in the NFL before becoming wide receivers coach for USF and now the Seminoles, is part of a skill positions group Garcia said might be the best he’s had in his time at Hillsborough.
The 5-foot-8 sophomore will have a lot of roles for the Terriers besides filling in for a four-star quarterback. Still, Dawsey is taking the job of Lawson’s backup very seriously. He’s been given the chance to learn from a Division I-bound quarterback, so, Dawsey said, he’s going to make the most of it.
“I try to pick up as much things I can, so when I do get in there, I’ll be ready,” Dawsey said. “I’ll know what I’m doing.”
• Sunlake, Wesley Chapel at Wiregrass Ranch, 6 p.m.
• Zephyrhills at Orlando Oak Ridge, 7 p.m.