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Football breakdown: Pinellas linebackers

Dunedin’s Ali Cheaib, left, has a lot of responsibility as the only returning starter on the Falcons’ defense.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR | Special to Times

Dunedin’s Ali Cheaib, left, has a lot of responsibility as the only returning starter on the Falcons’ defense.

As the 2009 prep football season approaches, the Times will break down each position in the county. Today we take a look at linebackers.

Top returning linebackers

1. Sean Holte, Largo: A first-team, all-state selection in Class 5A last season, Holte led the Packers in tackles with 102. He will take on an even bigger role with the graduation of Mike Marry.

2. Jeremiah George, Clearwater: Scout.com lists the speedy outside rusher the nation's 68th-best outside linebacker. Last season, he had 94 tackles and a sack. He has offers from 11 schools, including Kansas, Marshall and Troy.

3. Ali Cheaib, Dunedin: The Falcons' lone returning starter on defense, Cheaib has a knack for making big plays. In the spring game against Lakewood, he had two interceptions and scored on a recovered fumble.

4. Bar'ee Boyd, Lakewood: A converted defensive end, Boyd leads one of the fastest linebacking units in the county. He has offers from Buffalo, Colorado State, South Alabama and Tulane.

5. Kosta Vavlas, Tarpon Springs: The younger brother of recent Spongers graduate Bobby Vavlas, Kosta mans the middle of the defense and is adept at pass coverage.

6. Chad Hill, East Lake: The top returning defensive player for the Eagles, Hill was second on the team in tackles last season with 90. He has plenty of looks from smaller Division I colleges.

7. Corzell Lee, Gibbs: An explosive player, Lee is the Gladiators' biggest playmaker among their starting linebackers.

8. Daniel Tillman, Largo: Overshadowed by some of the bigger names on the Packers' defense, Tillman still shined last season with 55 tackles and three fumble recoveries.

9. Warren Witherspoon, Lakewood: After splitting time as a safety and linebacker, Witherspoon moves into a full-time role at linebacker and has interest from schools such as FIU and FAU.

10. Kyle Griffin, East Lake: Though undersized, Griffin came through with 53 tackles and a forced fumble last season.

Keep an eye on

1. Terry Johnson, Countryside: After splitting time at tailback last season, Johnson switches to linebacker, where he stood out in the spring game against Naples Lely.

2. Jamaal Smith, Largo: A transfer from Cape Coral, Smith takes over as a starter and gives the Packers much-needed depth.

3. Henry Franks, Boca Ciega: One of the Pirates' young playmakers, Franks should solidify a unit that lost Steve Dumerveil to graduation.

4. Cody Pogorelc, St. Petersburg: He hopes to build off a strong second half last season and become a leader among the linebackers.

5. Kyle Hamel, Northeast: He has a nose for the ball, averaging seven tackles last season.

Football breakdown: Pinellas linebackers 08/13/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 13, 2009 9:13pm]
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