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Tampa Bay Tech: Season preview

Coach: Corries "C.C." Culpepper (second season, 6-4) | Last season: 6-4 | Class: 4A, District 11 | Colors: Navy, red and white

A-listers Maurice Hagens

Rushed for more than 1,500 yards last season and returns for his junior season 10 pounds lighter with a quicker initial step. The bruising fullback hasn't missed a weightlifting session or practice in three seasons and with that dedication, Hagens is a threat for the county's rushing title.

Antonio Wallace

TBT's most versatile player isn't expected to come off the field this season. Slated to be the shutdown corner, biggest threat in the passing game and the Titans' kick returner, Wallace's speed is matched by his strength, with a 330-pound bench press added to his resume.

Sam Jones

One of the hardest-hitting linebackers in the county, Jones is the only Titan who routinely tries to bring down Hagens by himself in practice. Coach C.C. Culpepper said Jones brings a Ray Lewis-type intensity to the defense and is the clear-cut emotional leader of the squad.

Rising star D.D. Johnson

The Titans' other cornerback is expected to be tested early and often as opponents are likely to shy away from Wallace's side of the field. The senior has drawn interest from college scouts and if he can play to his potential, throwing the ball against TBT will prove difficult.

Stunt man Riaz Gwyn

Guy who does the dirty work

For the past three years, the defensive end has arrived at every practice by taking a 7-mile, 30-minute bus ride from his home near University Mall in Tampa. Culpepper describes Gwyn as a silent leader, saying he'd be surprised if he has said 20 words since joining the team.

Cutting-room floor

Three things the Titans need to avoid

1. Entitlement. After a 6-4 season, one of its best in recent history, the team has to continue moving forward. Most of the progress came in nondistrict play, and after the regular season Tampa Bay Tech played in a bowl game instead of the postseason.

2. Suspensions. Five players missed six weeks after an altercation with Freedom, resulting in a $3,250 fine. The suspensions lasted until only two games remained.

3. Slow start. The team opened last season with four straight wins. If they can repeat their early-season success, the postseason may be within reach as the Titans close the year with three consecutive home games.

Review

"It's good to see a team rejuvenate themselves like Tampa Bay Tech did. They're going to find out the hardest part about improvement is maintaining it, but with C.C., I think they can stay at that level." — Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia

Brendan Galella, Times correspondent

Tampa Bay Tech: Season preview 09/04/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 3:48pm]
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