Coach: Matt Lance (third season, 3-17) | Last season: 2-8 | Class: 5A, District 10 | Colors: Blue, red and white
In limping to a 2-8 record last season, Pinellas Park coach Matt Lance admitted there were times when he hoped his team could just make it through some of its tougher games without a running clock. The Patriots, according to Lance, should be considerably more competitive this season. They showed glimpses in their spring game victory over North Port.
1. Speed. The Patriots' biggest asset is team speed. Lance said this is the fastest team he has had in his three seasons at the school. With that in mind, he switched to a 3-5-3 defense and put his fastest players on that side of the ball. The defense is designed to create confusion with a variety of blitzes and stunts.
2. Talent on offense. The skill positions are loaded. Lance said the Patriots will line up with four wide receivers 95 percent of the time and run a true spread similar to USF and West Virginia. Those four main receivers, Michael Keys, Brandon Ferguson, Carlton Green and Robert Straub, are poised to put up big numbers. In the backfield, Michael Smith, Oraian Bentley and Chris McKinnie will share carries.
1. Will size be their downfall? While the Patriots will have speed, they'll likely be smaller than every team on their schedule. The defensive line is made up of linebacker-type bodies. The O-line is athletic but not deep.
2. Can the defense improve after giving up nearly 34 points a game in 2007? It'll be tough with a new scheme in place, but Lance feels the 3-5-3 is better suited to his personnel. The Patriots allowed just 132 yards to North Port in the spring, 80 of which came on a busted assignment that led to the Bobcats' only score. The Patriots will be more aggressive and will rely on Andrew Laughery, who moves from linebacker to free safety.
Bryan Burns, Times staff writer