Promises for the '08 campaign
1. Only a mild recession. Or, shall we say, a mild regression. After losing 20 starters from the best team (9-2) in school history, no one in their right mind should expect the Rams to again pursue an undefeated regular season. Similarly, no one should expect them to revert to the mediocrity in which they languished in 2004 and '05.
2. Pride. While we're at it, accountability and discipline. These are the virtues — borne of his Midwest heritage — coach Chris Taylor has instilled since his hiring in '05. It's another reason the Rams won't revert to being a one-win county doormat.
3. A three-headed quarterback. Our instincts say senior Jimmy Mattos will take snaps on opening day, but look for Taylor to also employ ambidextrous Hudson transfer Scott Kujak and freshman Bob Peck.
What the Rams can't promise
1. A playoff berth. Class 4A, District 8 simply is too top heavy this season.
2. A county rushing leader. We believe a lot of the offense will go through Mitchell transfer Sterling Ross (816 yards in '07), but physically he's not the same type of back as Byronell Arline, an every-down wrecking ball who graduated last spring as Pasco County's all-time rushing leader.
3. A Christmas card to Gulf High. A year after watching Ridgewood transfer David Williams run for more than 2,000 yards at Gulf, the Rams will see another of their former teammates — junior Adrian Golden — in the Bucs' backfield this year.
Some of the key figures in the Rams' 2008 campaign
1. Primary offensive skill player. RB Sterling Ross. With Golden gone, he becomes the man in what traditionally has been a ground-oriented offense.
2. Primary defensive skill player: MLB Tim Rearden. Rams' lone returning defensive starter averaged 7.6 tackles in '07.
3. Primary offensive lineman: C Andrew Stagner. Only returning offensive starter.
4. Primary defensive lineman: DE Luke Walker. The younger brother of ex-Rams and former Georgia Tech standout Adamm Oliver will form bookends on the defensive front with fellow senior Mike Vavasis.
5. Primary special-teams player: PR/KR Mike Defreese. Gritty senior also will play free safety.
Voices from the precincts
What some are saying about the Rams
"I think Ridgewood might surprise a lot of people. They lost a phenomenal number of starters, but (Taylor) does a fine job. He's got a significant number of younger players that got playing time last year because of the big leads his teams held in games. He's got a few transfers and an undefeated JV. I think anyone that overlooks Ridgewood is probably in for a shock." — Springstead coach Bill Vonada
Joey Knight, Times staff writer