MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
Around the county in 30 days
A daily spring preview of every football program in Pinellas County:
Coach: Bob Hudson (eighth season, 37-37)
Last season: 7-4 (lost 22-6 to Tampa Bay Tech in region quarterfinals)
District: Class 5A, District 8
Key losses: OL/DL Collin Cole, OL/DL Matt Groc, OL/DL Dylan Hastie, TE/LB Chad Hill, TE/DL Bobby Lyons, QB Sam Shaffer, WR/LB Cody Thurber, FB/DL Brandon Vazquez, RB/DB Jamaal Wilburn
Who’s back: WR Tyler Higbee, WR Robert Johnson, RB Tyler Lane, CB Chris Leppinen, S Drew McGuiness, K/P Cameron Mitchell, OL/DL Mike Sloat, OL/DL Logan Williamson
What’s new: The Eagles’ quarterback opening is a neck-and-neck competition between rising senior Dylan Tinsley and sophomore-to-be Pete Dinobo. Hudson said both guys have performed well this spring, and he has confidence with either as the starter. Expect to see more option from the Eagles as both QBs have good mobility. Wilburn emerged as the feature running back last spring and had a breakout season, rushing for more than 1,000 yards. Lane will get the first shot to replace Wilburn’s productivity in the backfield, but the coaching staff hopes other candidates emerge. The main strength of the offense lies in the receiving corps. At 6-foot-5, 208 pounds, Higbee, a D-I prospect, is a dangerous target for other teams to try to cover. Hudson says he plans to move the talented senior around to create mismatches. Johnson came out late for football last season and didn’t play a lot, but he’s another receiver the Eagles want to get the ball as much as possible. The Eagles lost a lot on both lines but particularly on defense. Williamson, who ran a 4.83 40-yard dash at a recent combine and has received offers from Colorado State, Youngstown State and Gardner-Webb, will anchor this year’s line, along with Sloat. Hudson said he’s trying to figure out which linemen will play offense and which will go on defense. The Eagles are trying to avoid having players go both ways. The defense returns just three starters, but the secondary is experienced with Leppinen and McGuiness back. J.J. Webber, who played as a sophomore but moved out of the area last year, is a rangy, athletic linebacker the coaches are high on. Mitchell has a monster leg and is a big weapon. He can make field goals from beyond 50 yards, and the majority of his kickoffs reach the end zone. His future at the next level, though, might be as a punter. Hudson expects the 6-foot-5 senior to earn a D-I scholarship before the year’s end.
Audible: “We have so many openings as far as kids not returning in spots that there is more competition going on than we’ve ever had. We have some depth. We have some good young players. It’s just a matter of trying to see which ones are ready for Friday night. But I’m excited. We’ve had one of our best offseasons. The kids have really responded.” — Hudson
Did you know? Last season, the Eagles passed for more than 1,000 yards for the first time in four years, according to Hudson. The veteran coach expects to put up similar numbers this season.
Spring game: vs. Gibbs, 7:30 p.m. May 28
Sept. 3 vs. St. Petersburg
Sept. 10 vs. Largo
Sept. 16 at Tarpon Springs
Sept. 24 at Clearwater
Oct. 1 at Seminole
Oct. 8 vs. Palm Harbor University
Oct. 14 at Northeast
Oct. 29 at Countryside
Nov. 5 vs. Dunedin
Nov. 12 vs. Nature Coast