TAMPA — The playbook was pretty simple at Tampa Bay Tech. Snap the ball to quarterback Michael Penix and let him throw all over the field.
That also meant defending the Titans wasn't all that difficult. Drop linemen into coverage, rush Penix and dare the Titans to run the ball.
Despite an 8-1 regular season, Tampa Bay Tech lost in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs to East Lake. Penix, a Tennessee commit, will still throw the ball this year, as his five touchdown passes against Brandon in the preseason game proved.
But the Titans should have a much more potent running game with the addition of junior Treshaun Ward, a late transfer from Plant City. Ward rushed for 1,082 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore. Coupled with Jaquavious Johnson, who led the Titans last year with 617 yards and seven touchdowns, TBT appears more balanced.
"For us to get over that hump of being a second- or third-round (playoff) team to a fourth- or fifth-round team is adding the running game," TBT coach Jayson Roberts said. "That was something we had to do. Last year, Michael was dynamic throwing the ball. After a while, teams were dropping seven or eight guys into coverage. Now that we run, it makes us that much harder to defend."
Ward spent the summer wondering where he would play. He wanted to attend Armwood, but was denied a hardship waiver by the school district. Just one day before school started, Ward enrolled at Tech.
His first regular-season game with his new school will be Friday night against Armwood.
"It was a long process," Ward said. "The day before school started is when I actually knew I was going to Tampa Bay Tech. I knew they were good, especially the way they whipped (Plant City, 39-6) last year."
Ward got eight carries against Brandon and rushed for 36 yards. He will share the load with Johnson, who got seven touches in the 51-0 rout of the Eagles. When Johnson, a senior, heard that Ward was transferring in, he knew that meant good things for the offense.
"I was glad," he said. "Most people might get jealous because you don't get as many looks, but it's all about the team. Our running game is doubled now. Getting Treshaun as a transfer means as soon as one back goes out another one comes in. There's no dropoff."
Which should cause headaches for opposing defensive coordinators all season. Even with the running game, Penix is still the main threat. A Tennessee commit, he threw for 2,078 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. He had just one interception.
His main target, senior Levi Jackson, had seven touchdown catches. And several other receivers, including junior Isaiah Stephens and senior Evan Lewis, should have big seasons.
But Penix feels much better knowing he has a running game to rely on.
"We've got weapons all over the field," Penix said. "It's a great thing to have. Our running backs are really good this season. They are going to ball every game."
Having so many offensive threats creates a good problem for Roberts.
"We've got some guys," Roberts said. "The hardest part sometimes is managing touches and making sure we get everybody involved."