LAND O’LAKES — Welcome to the big time, Ethan Weilant.
The rising sophomore backed up Ryan Bird at quarterback last season for one of the most storied football programs in the area at Land O’Lakes.
Now the young signal caller is penciled in as the starter for fall, running one of the more pass-happy offenses around.
Weilant didn’t get much playing time last fall. But when he did get on the field, he showed the potential that coach Brian Wachtel hopes makes his offense even more dangerous after the graduation of Kent Taylor, one of the top tight end prospects in the nation in the Class of 2012.
“Weilant can really run,” Wachtel said. “We’ve had a lot of guys step up so far this spring, and he’s definitely been one of them.”
Weilant made three appearances under center in 2011 in blowout wins over Springstead, Mitchell and Central. After throwing 0 for 2 with one interception in his first varsity appearance against the Eagles, he went 7-for-10 with 171 yards and two touchdowns in his next two showings.
In Land O’Lakes’ first intrasquad scrimmage, he showed great control of the offense, according to Wachtel. Even though the Gators graduated a bunch of seniors at the skill positions, the team will return its entire offensive line and leading rusher Harrison Wood (789 yards, 10 touchdowns).
The presence of these players should help ease the transition for Weilant, a more mobile quarterback than his predecessor. He rushed for 104 yards on 14 carries (7.5 per carry) with two touchdowns last year. His breakout performance came against Central when he accounted for all four of the touchdowns he scored on the year in a 52-3 win.
Two out, one back at Anclote
The Sharks have been without two notables from last year’s roster.
Backup QB Brevet Killett transferred to Palm Harbor University after throwing for 344 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 248 yards and three scores as a freshman.
Second-team all-conference linebacker Dimitri Grivas had surgery to fix a broken hand Friday and will be out for the rest of the spring — and maybe longer. He led the Sharks with 94 tackles as a junior.
But Matt Wicks’ team has one key (sort of) addition. Lineman Terry Linton (6-3, 325 pounds) is back after discipline issues the past two seasons. Linton signed a behavioral contract, and Wicks said his lineman has been a model citizen so far.
“He’s definitely a force to have,” Wicks said.
Wildcats looking for depth
Wesley Chapel knew it would have to replace the 12 seniors who signed to play with colleges. Coach Ben Alford didn’t realize he’d have to replenish a lot of other positions, too.
The Wildcats had about 80 players in their program last fall but are down to 36 this spring. The situation worsened last week when QB Ty Tanner had to miss practice because of injury.
“My 11 I’m going to put on the field on offense and defense, I’m confident with,” Alford said. “Our issue is depth.”
More young players are getting reps this spring, including tight end Lawrence Harbottle Fraticelli.
But the Wildcats are still figuring out how to adjust to a smaller team with less depth. Wesley Chapel lost three players who weighed at least 260 pounds but got a boost with Zephyrhills transfer Dalton Henderson.
“We can’t be sluggish,” Alford said. “Everything we do has got to be fundamentally sound.”
Photo: Terry Linton
Compiled by staff writer Matt Baker and correpsondent Derek J. LaRiviere.