With the regular season starting Friday, Pinellas County has become the land of opportunity, particularly among quarterbacks. Of the 25 public and private schools in the county, 17 have fresh faces under center. The pressure is on the newcomers to show they're ready to make a difference. Conventional wisdom suggests teams with new starting quarterbacks will go through a series of highs and lows as they learn by trial and error.
New … kind of
Some quarterbacks are just changing addresses, such as Ryan Davis, a former two-year starter at Northeast who transferred to Lakewood in July.
Davis, a junior, is a multidimensional force who is as much a threat with his feet. Last year, he passed for 2,120 yards, ran for 719 and accounted for 23 touchdowns as he led the Vikings to the playoffs as district runnerup.
His arrival came at an opportune time for the Spartans, who had to replace two-year starter Tracy Johnson after he graduated.
The talent surrounding Davis is impressive. The receiving corps is 10 deep and was bolstered this summer by several transfers, many of whom were his teammates at Northeast.
The only drawback is little time to develop cohesiveness with so much fluctuation on the roster. And the offense did not get a dress rehearsal after last week's preseason game was canceled. Friday's game at Countryside is the first true test.
"I've been working extra hours after school watching film to learn the offense," Davis said. "I've picked it up pretty quick. I know we have a lot of new guys, and I think having the extra week without a game helped. We'll be ready on Friday."
Those left behind
Davis' departure meant Northeast had to scramble for a replacement. The Vikings are starting Charlie Krasuski, who played primarily as a defensive back last year.
The quarterback carousel also brought changes at Tarpon Springs, where last year's starter, Dalton Collins, left for Admiral Farragut. Collins' replacement is Jake Battyanyi, who played in last week's preseason win over Anclote.
In good company
Other first-year starters, such as East Lake's Jake Hudson and Largo's Donavan Hale, should be able to accelerate their learning curve after serving apprenticeships behind two of the county's best quarterbacks a year ago.
Hudson, son of Eagles coach Bob Hudson, was the backup to Pete DiNovo, who finished his career as the county's all-time career leader in passing yards and touchdowns.
The burden of replacing a legend should be eased for Hudson thanks to the talent at the skill positions. The Eagles have a pair of Division I receivers in Artavis Scott (Clemson) and George Campbell (Michigan), who were ranked Nos. 1-2, respectively, in the HomeTeam 100 this summer.
Hale was second string to Juwan Brown, a first-team, all-county selection last year.
Hale showed off his cannon arm in youth leagues, and most of Largo's receivers were accustomed to having him throw to them growing up. Though he splits his time with basketball, Hale got his timing down by throwing with his receivers in his spare time at the Ridgecrest YMCA. It showed last week as he threw for 248 yards and three touchdowns in a preseason rout of Dunedin.