As the 2010 prep football season approaches, the Times will break down each position on the North Suncoast. Today we take a look at quarterback.
1. Stevie Weatherford, Land O’Lakes: On the field, the senior is the complete package, with great vision, good decision making, a strong arm and fast feet. He can do it all from zeroing in on targets to charging down the sideline for big yardage. Weatherford, a Times all-Suncoast first-team pick last year, threw for 2,052 yards, 27 touchdowns and just five interceptions. For all the good news on the field, Weatherford has countered with some concerning off-the-field issues. After transferring to and from Tampa Catholic last year, he reclaimed his job as the No. 1 QB at Land O’Lakes. He was suspended for a game last season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. In the spring, Weatherford was arrested under suspicion of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and grand theft. Those charges were later dropped. And he recently injured his right (throwing) hand playing basketball. The best news came last month when Weatherford orally committed to South Florida after considering Cincinnati and East Carolina.
2. Jacob Guy, Pasco: Only one player in recent years has stepped behind center with more expectations, and that guy was Weatherford. Ever since Guy transferred from Zephyrhills last year it was clear the Pirates had their next starter. It’s possible Guy would have seen more action last year if not for a hand injury that benched him for several weeks. Still the anticipation has grown as he replaces the graduated D.J. Clower. Guy, a junior, brings a different style and is considered more of a pocket passer by his own admission. Clower was more likely to run when a defender was in pursuit. Of course, Pasco has plenty of talented ball carriers, so having a dedicated passer should help open up the passing game. Guy might not have a ton of varsity game experience, but he certainly logged plenty of time working with the No. 1 offense during 7-on-7.
3. Jacob Jackson, Sunlake: Entering his second season as a Seahawk, Jackson appears comfortable and confident leading the offense. With plenty of weapons and command of the playbook, coach Bill Browning declared this summer that the once run-heavy offense hoped to become more balanced. Jackson is one reason. With sharp passes, eyes constantly shifting back and forth and a seemingly calm approach, the senior appears ready to help Sunlake take the next step. After going a combined 1-19 in their first two seasons, the Seahawks went 4-6 last year. Some believe Sunlake can compete for a playoff berth. If so, Jackson will have to be nearly flawless.
4. Chris Reaves, Zephyrhills: Reaves, a senior, might be higher on our list, except we missed an opportunity to see him play this spring. That’s because the Bulldog was forced to sit out after he transferred to Land O’Lakes then back to Zephyrhills. Reaves is quick, athletic and will see action at several positions, including receiver. In a sputtering offense that amassed just 1,683 yards and 74 points, Reaves collected almost a third of the Bulldogs’ yardage. But the pressure’s on because he knows how much he means to Zephyrhills’ success.
5. Will Fulmer, Gulf: Consider Gulf’s history with quarterbacks under coach Jay Fulmer, and is it really a surprise a Buccaneer makes the list, much less his son? The Buccaneers new No. 1 emerged after Ty’Shon Peters transferred to Anclote last spring. The sophomore has plenty of learning to do, but took some big steps in the spring getting plenty of snaps, and running the No. 1 offense against Anclote in the spring game. Fulmer proved he could take some hard hits, throw the slant and lead his team to an exciting come-from-behind win. He has command of the basics, but needs to learn how to get rid of the ball more quickly.
Keep an eye on
1. Ja’Juan Story, Nature Coast: Nature Coast would love nothing more than to place Story at receiver. But the lack of a capable QB has forced coach Mark Nash to put the senior behind center. Throwing is not his strong suit, but he can run and make big plays. Playing QB will give Story the ball on every offensive play.
2. James Tringali, Wiregrass Ranch: If he can limit turnovers and overcome heavy losses to graduation, the senior should have the Bulls competing in every game.
3. Austin Smith, Hudson: There was no update on the junior’s status Monday; he was shot in the leg last week during a robbery attempt. The extent of the injury and action taken by Hudson or Pasco County could impact when — and if — he plays this fall.
4. Ryan Bird, Land O’Lakes: The Gators’ backup QB is expected to take a back seat to Weatherford this fall. But the junior showed during 7-on-7s this summer that he can play, and he was Hillsborough’s No. 1 until he transferred. If he gets a shot, things could get interesting.
5. Matt Michaels, Mitchell: In a run-heavy offense, Michaels threw for 422 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions last year as a junior. He did most of his damage with the run rushing for 422 yards and five touchdowns.
6. Scott Kujack, Ridgewood: The ambidextrous Rams senior will see the shotgun more under new coach Kent Reed.
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 421-4886.