ZEPHYRHILLS - The biggest difference at Zephyrhills — aside from the high from last year’s battle for the playoffs — is depth.
The Bulldogs had about 55 players at Wednesday’s practice for a team looking to build on a 6-4 season.
“We’ve finally got the depth I think every coach wants,” coach Reggie Roberts said.
In addition to a bigger roster, Zephyrhills is bigger on the field. Roberts said the Bulldogs’ weightlifting team was one of the first ones out at any competition when he took over. This year’s squad had one athlete — RB Malik Mutcherson — advance to state.
“These kids have worked hard,” Roberts said. “They’ve gotten stronger. They’ve gotten faster.”
But Zephyrhills must fill find a way to make up for the loss of star QB Jamal Roberts, a Kent State recruit and one of the county’s fastest runners. Roberts threw or ran for 26 of his team’s 38 touchdowns and was one of the North Suncoast’s leaders with 1,030 rushing yards.
“You can’t replace Jamal,” his coach said.
Here are three Bulldogs who could fill that role:
illie Williams: The recent out-of-town transfer has been clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Not too shabby.
Malik Mutcherson: The 5-foot-6 junior RB has the power to be a workhorse. He averaged 4.42 yards per carry with three touchdowns last fall and was second on the team with 305 rushing yards.
Jordan Roberts: Yes, Jamal’s little brother. The sophomore athlete was the district champion in the high jump (6-4) and 100 meters (10.87 seconds), and also qualified for regionals with a third-place finish in the 200. His coach said he runs a 4.3-second 40-yard dash.
Tracking two-sport stars
A handful of football players are readjusting to the game after spending the spring as track stars. That includes Ridgewood TE Max Livingstone, who placed 12th at state in the 400 meters (50.63 seconds). He said track season trimmed his frame from 225 pounds to around 200.
“I’m working on getting back into it,” said Livingstone, who was recently invited to the Blue-Grey Combine.
Pasco ATH Janarion Grant must also get back into football mode. He earned his second consecutive Class 2A state title in the long jump (23-2).
Nature Coast RB Matt Breida, ATH Dominique Rawlings and DB Jacquez Kincade were part of a 4x100 relay team that placed eighth at state.
Sunlake lineman Travis Manecke is seeded 11th in the shot put and 12th in the discus in this weekend’s Class 3A state meet.
Clip of the day
A YouTube video — www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gdDiSsrnBE — shows one reason Pasco star defensive lineman Joey Ivie exploded from a 245-pound starter into a 265-pound force and one of Tampa Bay’s top college prospects.
The clip shows the 6-foot-5 junior breaking the school weightlifting record with a 315-pound clean and jerk. Ivie lifts the barbell over his head once — then does it again.
That power is one reason Ivie holds offers from USF, Miami, Mississippi State, Texas Tech, Purdue and others.
Pasco linebacker Aryn Strickland signed with Geneva (Pa.) College on Wednesday morning. He was a first-team all-North Suncoast selection by the Times and an all-conference pick last fall as one of the Pirates’ top defenders.
SMU stopped by Nature Coast to evaluate junior RB/CB Matt Breida. Harvard recently visited Anclote to check out LB Terrell Martin.
Stat of the day
68 Players at Anclote’s first day of practice
Tweet of the day
@anclotefootball: “Day 2 — Great practice, a few new kids. Soph TE Austin Rumer is catching everything! ready to hear the pads pop tomorrow! Snot bubble time!”