ST. PETERSBURG — With a majority of Admiral Farragut's impact players new to the team, the Blue Jackets will spend much of the preseason getting to know each other.
In the offseason, four-star recruit Craig Watts transferred in from Gibbs. Teammates L'Dre Barnes, an offensive lineman, and Dorian Williams, a 310-pound nose guard, followed soon after. Matt Landers, a quarterback/wide receiver, moved over from Lakewood — as did teammates Zion Roland (receiver) and John Waller (fullback/defensive lineman). And perhaps the biggest transfer was quarterback Austyn Causey, a junior who played two years at St. Petersburg.
"The biggest thing for us is getting to know each other," coach Ryan Hearn said. "You look at Northside Christian, all those guys have played together for a long time. (Head coach) Mike (Alstott) has done a great job of building a family atmosphere. For us, we need to spend time with each other, on and off the field, to become a better team."
Admiral Farragut needed to become a better team in order to survive in this district. Northside Christian won eight regular-season games in 2014 and made the playoffs. The Mustangs graduated very few starters and also benefitted from some transfers. Indian Rocks Christian was 12-1 last season and played in the Class 2A state final. While the Golden Eagles lost talent on both sides of the ball, there are still plenty of returners to make them competitive again.
The Blue Jackets (4-5) finished behind Clearwater Central Catholic and Calvary Christian in Class 3A-5. The move to Class 2A seemed like it might help their postseason chances, but the opponents are just as tough.
"You've got two weeks in October where everyone's going to be on edge during (district) game week," Hearn said. "You've got games before that that are important for the kids and everything, but those two district games mean everything.''
The Blue Jackets do not lack skill players. Causey likely will become the starting quarterback. That will move Landers to wide receiver, where he played most of the time for Lakewood's junior varsity. Donnie Crum, who started at running back last season, is also back.
But will that be enough to advance to the playoffs?
Contact Rodney Page at [email protected] Follow @RodneyHomeTeam.