Perhaps the most astounding sight at Armwood's practice these days, more so than Darryl Richardson's spirals or the offensive front's size, is receiver Ronnie Thomas walking - even jogging - on his own.
Thomas, whose right knee sustained three torn ligaments and a gruesome dislocation on a first-quarter play in December's Class 4A state title game, said he's hopeful of playing again in 2012 - his senior year.
He said his doctor at the Florida Orthopaedic Institute agrees. "He said he likes the chances," Thomas said.
The chances seemed far more grim initially. The injury, which occurred on a simple pass over the middle, was so unsightly that SunSports chose not to air replays on its live broadcast. To this day, Thomas has seen the play only once - on a Christmas Eve re-run of the game.
"It just felt like my whole leg was asleep," said Thomas, who had totaled 153 receiving yards and two TDs the week before in the state semifinals against Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer. "I couldn't hear well. I felt like I was underwater when it happened."
Thomas, a regular so far at spring practices, said at first he was so devastated by the injury he lost roughly 20 pounds and frequently stayed home from school. Now, he can bend the knee - shrouded by a black brace - and even sprint lightly.
But he won't try to dash back, having watched former teammate A.J. King try to return too soon from a torn knee ligament sustained in the 2010 preseason. King played in only one game.
"I haven't even asked that question (about returning in 2011)," Thomas said.
New Jefferson coach Jeremy Earle knows his passing attack won't be as prolific in 2011, so he's hoping RB Shaquille Speights steps into a playmaker role.
Lost in all the yardage put up through the air, the Dragons rushed for 2,900 yards (more than 7.0 a carry) and 44 TDs last season.
Most of that was from the graduating Demetrius Russell (1,200 yards), leaving Speights to fill the hole.
A rising junior, Speights averaged almost 10 yards a carry last season and scored seven TDs.
"The offense will be different, and we're looking at Shaq as a guy that can change a game," Earle said.
"Now, when people dare us to throw, we're gonna do it." - new Tampa Bay Tech coach Jayson Roberts, weaning the Titans off their trademark wing-T for a multiple-formation look. Former Jesuit standout TB Mo Harris is TBT's new coordinator
Number of the day
6 Members of the 2010 Brandon team that will play at the collegiate level counting RT Walter Keels, who recently signed with NAIA Concordia College in Selma, Ala. The downside? "A lot of holes to fill (this spring)," coach John Lima said.
What they're saying
Every day, we pose a question to our readers on our Facebook page. They're keen to offer their two cents … and we're printing the best responses.
Thursday's question: The pads go on today. Who's the first person you plan to take down?
- I'm calling out and leveling the player I think is my biggest competition for a position because I'm trying to prove to the coaches I am the best at what I do. - Richard Devin Greene
Next up: Who's the biggest, nastiest offensive lineman this spring, and why does he strike fear in opponents' wee little hearts?
What's your call? Go to here, become a fan and give us your thoughts.