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Fisher gives few clues on state of Bulldogs

(ran PC edition)

It's football season, so Bulldogs coach Tom Fisher must be wearing his best poker face. Just ask him.

Any standouts in Zephyrhills' camp this week, coach?

"Don't know," said Fisher, arms crossed, watching his players stretch from behind dark shades. "We just started in pads today."

You have 50 kids in camp this season, coach. That's more than twice the number you had in the spring. Is that a good sign?

"We'll see," Fisher said. "Half of those weren't out for the spring, and half will play JV."

How does the team look overall?

"Can't tell yet," Fisher said.

The coach did talk about the 'Dogs offensive line, though.

Competition in camp is fierce between the veterans and newcomers to see who will start. One thing is for sure: The unit will be deep.

Chris Furman is working at left guard, and Charlie Helm is at the opposite position. Todd Black is lining up at left tackle and also is practicing with the tight ends. Right tackle is still open, but Joey Burke looks strong there so far. Adam Petrillo, also practicing at tight end, also is a tackle.

Joey Walters is the leading candidate at center until Craig Merson returns. Merson broke his left fibula in June while working at a feed store. Merson had the cast removed last week but hasn't been cleared to practice.

"I'm not expecting him back until at least the second week of the season," Fisher said.

Competition to back up the starters also is strong with Aaron Camacho and Zach Zeigler at tackle and Sean Fernandez, Frank Fregoso and Casey Spears at guard.

HERE TO STAY: After a brief dalliance with Wesley Chapel, Kenny Roberts was back at Pasco on Thursday morning, a day after he decided he no longer was interested in being a Wildcat.

After his first snap at quarterback, it was official: Roberts is a Pirate this season.

"He didn't miss a beat," coach Ricky Thomas said. "We worked him at quarterback, halfback and fullback. He got quite a few snaps in today."

However, Roberts is three days behind in his battle with senior Nick Trehuba for the quarterback job.

Coach John Castelamare said he was just pleased Roberts finally made a decision and wished him the best.

"He's too good an athlete not to play football," Castelamare said. "So whether he's a Wildcat or a Pirate, it really didn't matter. What's important is that he gets the chance to play."

NO PASSING FANCY: Under John Benedetto's tutelage, Land O'Lakes has passed on occasion. But the coach never has overseen anything like the West Coast offense used by the San Francisco 49ers.

Three yards and a cloud of dust has been the preferred method of marching downfield in Benedetto's 22 seasons. This season, it may be more like 5 to 10 yards _ with or without the dust.

Sure, the Gators are relying on the tandem of tailback Godfrey Pestana and fullback Jason Carpenter, which has produced two 1,000-yard rushing seasons (1996 at Pine View Middle and 1997 for the Gators junior varsity). But the running game starts with the less-heralded players up front. And that group, offensive line coach Tom Carter said, is chomping at the bit to plow some running lanes.

Anchors Mark Sopcik, a left guard, and left tackle Jimmy Tuttle are the clear-cut leaders up front. But outside of those workhorses, Carter said he is comfortable interchanging as many as seven others.

"We're going to have more depth than we've had," Carter said. "When I have to rest (a starting blocker) and put one of the backups in, I'm not going to be worried about getting them back into the game in a hurry."

Early indications are that center Gordon Brewer, tackle Johnny Wild and guard Teddy Meade are the front-runners for starting positions. But Chris Clarke, Charles Tipton, Adam Rosen and Casey Middleton are sure to see playing time.

Still, the running game hinges primarily on the success of Sopcik and Tuttle.

"A kid like Mark comes along once every 5-10 years, in my opinion," Carter said. "He's a kid who's worked out hard since he was a freshman."

Carter described Tuttle as a lineman who "moves well and he's got pretty good speed. He has no fear."

DOCTOR'S ORDERS: Zephyrhills' Len Sones should be in camp solidifying his hold at linebacker and fullback, but a medical complication has him on the sidelines awaiting a doctor's clearance.

When Sones returned from vacation in Mississippi, a doctor discovered he had high blood pressure. That means more trips to the doctor.

"He's still being evaluated," Fisher said. "We're waiting to see what the doctors say."