Promises for the '08 campaign
1. A reinvigorated fan base. Hernando alumnus John Palmer, hired in June, has the passion, pedigree (remember his dad, Dub?) and state championship resume that would excite any constituency.
2. One of the area's biggest offensive lines. Palmer will build around a front that should average well over 250 pounds.
3. An improvement from last year's 2-8 record. Naturally, Palmer can't promise that, but we are.
What the Leopards can't promise
1. A playoff berth. For now, Hernando stands behind Crystal River and Nature Coast in the 3A, District 6 pecking order.
2. A fast start. After a preseason game against perennial state contender South Sumter, the Leopards host Central, then travel to Hudson.
3. Domestic tranquility. While many longtime boosters are excited about Palmer, others are miffed another favorite son, Rodney Byrd, wasn't rehired after only one season. If adversity strikes early, will the fan base become galvanized or fractured?
A look at some of the key figures in the Leopards' 2008 campaign:
Primary offensive skill player: TE/RB/WR Clay Kessler. Look for this Hernando Christian transfer and bona fide Division I prospect to line up all over the field.
Primary defensive skill player: RB Alvin Delaine. If Kessler doesn't catch your eye, this diminutive two-way sophomore will.
Primary offensive lineman: RT David Hines. Entering fourth season as a starter; bench presses around 360.
Primary defensive lineman: DT Robert Huggins. A 230-pound junior who shapes up as an effective run-stopper.
Primary special-teams player: P/K Josh Harvey. So athletic, he also may play some defensive back.
Voices from the precincts
What some are saying about the Leopards:
"I wish I knew (what to expect). A new coach, a new coaching staff. I know (Palmer) has been successful at his previous stops, particularly his most recent one with a state championship. We just hope we can give him a proper welcome back to Hernando County." — Central coach Cliff Lohrey, whose club faces Hernando in the season opener
Joey Knight, Times staff writer