As the 2009 prep football season approaches, the Times will break down each position on the North Suncoast. Today we take a look at offensive and defensive linemen.
1. Gary Myrick, Jr., Land O'Lakes
Height/weight: 6-4, 250
Notable: He has been described by some coaches as a freak with unbelievable size and ability on the defensive line. He logged 50 tackles in nine games in 2008. Thanks to his speed, Myrick is able to single-handedly shut down one side of the field. He's explosive off the ball and has a great work ethic. Myrick has received college recruiting letters from Notre Dame, Florida State and Tennessee, among others. He transferred from Nature Coast and should have a tremendous impact for the Gators and first-year coach Matt Kitchie.
2. R.J. Nixon, Sr., Wesley Chapel
Height/weight: 6-5, 305
Notable: Nixon is a three-year starter at center and a Division I prospect with interest from FIU among others. Nixon is a good snapper, can read defenses and blocking schemes, and has worked hard to develop a quicker first step. Nixon continues the tradition of power linemen at Wesley Chapel following guys such as Kamran Joyer, Danny Tolley and Khalil Madani. Every Wildcat who has advanced to a D-I school has been a lineman, so Nixon is in good company.
3. Jeff Kruse, So., Gulf
Height/weight: 6-1, 270
Notable: Kruse is a nice mix of brains and brawn. Enrolled in Gulf's IB program, he also is a beast in the weight room with a 350-pound bench press and a 450-pound squat — up 25 and 50 pounds, respectively, since the spring. Strong, physical and smart, Kruse enters only his second season as a well-rounded player with quick feet. Coach Jay Fulmer said Kruse has looks from Florida.
4. Cory Emerson, Sr., Nature Coast
Height/weight: 6-4, 250
Notable: A year after transferring from Hernando, Emerson came into his own in a game against South Sumter in 2008. Once described as happy-go-lucky, Emerson unleashed a new side against the Raiders, instantly transforming into an upper-echelon lineman. Still developing good fundamentals, Emerson has quick feet and a killer instinct, good balance thanks to basketball, and interest from several Division I programs.
5. Morgan Hendrix, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch
Height/weight: 6-1, 290
Notable: Hendrix spent a good amount of time working with former Tampa Bay Buccaneer lineman Jeb Terry this summer. They did a lot of one-on-one work, going over techniques and fundamental drills. Hendrix is strong and aggressive and unquestionably the leader of the Bulls' linemen.
6. Jamall Carter, Jr., Pasco
Height/weight: 5-11, 280
Notable: Carter spent plenty of time this summer working on his body and trying to become a better football player. He accomplished both and will be the anchor on Pasco's offensive line as the center. At 280 pounds, coach Tom McHugh said Carter looks a ripped 250. He started the 2008 season as a backup and quickly became a starter as several Pirates suffered long-term injuries. Carter played various spots, but seemed a natural fit at center.
7. Donavan Berardi, Sr., River Ridge
Height/weight: 6-3, 305
Notable: Berardi has been the Royal Knights' top offensive lineman the past two seasons. The lead blocker and key to most plays, the offense runs plays behind him. Quick, solid and thick, Berardi is punishing and capable of helping River Ridge break open big plays.
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 421-3886.