Depending on which local high school you follow, spring football has reached either the halfway point or home stretch. Either way, we figured it's time to break for some water and analysis. While we're on the subject of water, analyze this: Can you recall a recent spring so bereft of rain, or even humidity? That's one of the things we've noticed while visiting the local camps. Here are some others:
Kids who have caught our eyes
Will Burbridge, LB, Jr., Gulf: Bucs coach Jay Fulmer shamelessly says Burbridge has NFL potential. We're not going anywhere near that far, but the kid's agile, and his 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame fills out a uniform quite nicely.
Kevin Grier, RG, Sr., Central: At 6-3, 305, Grier is the reason we foresee a lot of trap plays from the Bears' run game. Coach Cliff Lohrey says Division I programs such as USF, Florida International and Western Michigan have shown interest.
Adrian Golden, RB, Jr., Ridgewood: Some burly dude named Arline overshadowed this kid last season, but we see him emerging as the cornerstone of the Rams' trademark run game in 2008. At 5-8 and fairly thick, Golden has a low point of gravity and is shifty. While we're on the subject of Ridgewood, new quarterback Jimmy Mattos appears to have a pretty nice arm.
Hakeem Ishmar, WR, So., Pasco: Last year, he primarily blocked on huge passing plays, but now he is one of the first names Pirates coach Tom McHugh labels as a receiving threat. At 6-3, 180, he'll step in nicely to fill a void left by Demetrious Larry.
Hunter Joyer, FB, So. Wesley Chapel: The talented battering ram is bigger and more experienced and will give the Wildcats a quick, muscular presence in the backfield. He already has caught the eyes of Division I programs thanks to the exposure older brother Kamran has received as one of Wesley Chapel's top linemen.
Britt Langley, LB, Sr., Nature Coast: This inside linebacker was always fast, but this spring he has become a lot more physical, making big hits in practice and really stepping up his game.
Joe Maldonado, FB/LB, Sr. Zephyrhills: The Bulldogs' top tackler from a season ago is back to lead the Zephyrhills defense and is having a good spring as an offensive and defensive key.
Top 5 college prospects for 2009
1. Kamran Joyer, OL/DL Wesley Chapel
2. Josh Johnson, ATH, Pasco
3. Michael Fields, DB, Nature Coast
4. Kevin Grier, OL, Central
5. Alex Spock, K, Land O'Lakes
1. Though they probably don't realize it while doing gassers in full pads, local players are catching a break this spring with the consistently dry air and wind. "I tell my guys we have not had a hot day," Central coach Cliff Lohrey said.
2. We don't know how much more competitive Sunlake will be in Year 2 but it's clear the Seahawks are bigger. "Strength-wise, we're becoming much more varsity-like," coach Bill Browning said.
3. Hernando Christian could probably hang with some North Suncoast teams but we'll never know because none of them — other than Bishop McLaughlin — are on the schedule.
4. Pasco is oozing talented athletes and after surprisingly claiming the Class 3A, District 8 title and defeating 4A power Land O'Lakes the Pirates look bigger, stronger, faster and more organized in Year 2 of the Tom McHugh era.
5. Wiregrass Ranch is a lot faster and stronger. In fact, veteran coach Ricky Thomas said he thinks these Bulls possess as much speed as he has ever coached, going back to his days at Pasco. As for the team's physical development, two-way standout Paris Wolfe puts it like this: "We hit the buffet line."
Times' top 8
(Slightly modified from our early-, early-season top eight)
1. Nature Coast
3. Land O'Lakes
7. Wesley Chapel