Coach: Yusuf Shakir (second season, 6-5) | Last season: 6-5 | Class: 5A, District 10 | Colors: blue and gold
Gibbs did some impressive things in coach Yusuf Shakir's first season. The Gladiators went 6-5, clinched the runnerup spot in Class 5A, District 10 and made the playoffs for the first time in six years. Shakir believes Gibbs will continue its return to prominence, despite having to replace nearly every starter on offense.
1. Skill players. Though the Gladiators graduate their entire offensive backfield, Shakir isn't fretting, especially with Josh Rembert taking over at quarterback for the departed Lamar Hall. When Rembert drops back to pass, he'll have at his disposal one of the county's deepest and most dangerous stable of wideouts. Shakir said six receivers could see playing time with Jarvis West emerging as the top target after gaining more than 200 all-purpose yards against Palm Harbor U. in the spring.
2. Special teams. Shakir spends more time on special teams than most coaches and it shows. Last year, the Gladiators blocked 13 kicks and had eight returns for touchdowns. Gibbs will continue to be a force in that area. The only concern is finding a replacement for kicker Tommy Haines, who graduated.
1. How much will the defense improve? The Gladiators had trouble stopping the run last season. That had a lot to do with playing so many underclassmen. This season, Gibbs returns eight starters, including lineman Tim Jackson, linebacker Gary Gainer and defensive back Jacobie Dandy. The experience should be enough for the defense to show progress.
2. Do the Gladiators have enough big bodies up front: Gibbs has beefed up with four starters averaging 260 pounds. The best is Jared Walker, the son of former Buccaneer Jackie Walker. Jared (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) was named to the third-team, national preseason list by Florida Football Magazine.
Bob Putnam, Times staff writer