WESLEY CHAPEL — The arms, legs and mouth of Chris Reaves will have a big impact on Zephyrhills' success in the fall.
The starting quarterback was vocal when the school fired coach Jerrell Cogmon last summer in the wake of a recruiting scandal.
And Reaves was barking commands Tuesday, giving high-fives and making key plays at Pasco County's unofficial seven-on-seven league. He was the main guy behind center last season, commandeering an offense that mustered just 74 points during a 2-8 season.
Some should consider giving the Bulldogs a mulligan after Cogmon's very public dismissal two days into preseason conditioning with no Plan B in place.
It's safe to say most teams would have wilted.
Now with Reggie Roberts in place for his first season as coach, it's time to move on and Reaves sounds motivated.
"I was born here," Reaves said. "… I just want to do something with my life."
That glance into Reaves' soul might be the gateway Roberts enters to revive Bulldog pride, which has become his mantra.
That pride has been lacking, Roberts said.
"In general the motivation level is different from when I played at Zephyrhills High School," Roberts said. "All the distractions and all the things going on around these young men, the attitude is different. That's what we're trying to change."
Reaves certainly has the talent, though it's unclear how much he has improved since last fall when he threw for 408 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He briefly transferred to Land O'Lakes last spring, and due to Florida High School Athletic Association rules was ineligible to play in the Bulldogs' spring game against Pasco.
Roberts has seen enough in the short time he has been on campus.
"Having Chris is definitely an advantage," Roberts said. "He is that athlete. He can throw, run and catch the football. That's dynamic for us in the spread offense. It's a threat. I'm definitely happy to have Chris."
Reaves, who admits he prefers playing receiver, will have an opportunity to play various positions, sharing time at quarterback with junior Jacob Smith. The duo seems to be on the same page in terms of improvement and sharing snaps.
"It works out pretty good," Smith said. "If one of us struggles, the other can come in and succeed at the same level."
Roberts described Smith as a quiet leader, but had high praise for him after working with him for a month.
"I tell anybody I talk to, Jacob Smith was the surprise of the spring," Roberts said. "From Day 1, nobody has worked harder. He's an incredible athlete. He's just like Chris. I'm happy to have him. He's an athlete and a young kid. I think the Bulldog fans will be hearing a lot from him."
Together, Reaves and Smith have the opportunity to do more than deliver touchdowns. They can be advocates for Roberts, helping instill a passion for the game Roberts saw in the Bulldogs locker room in the late 1980s. It's a feeling he hopes will flood his locker room again — and soon.
"There have been improvements," Roberts said. "As far as the motivation, we work on it daily. But I have seen kids' attitudes change for the better."
Izzy Gould can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 421-3886.