Summer vacation is over for Tampa Bay football players.
You do remember the time off, right? I think it was June 15-June 16. Am I right?
While the time between the end of the 2011 season and the start of the 2012 season isn’t filled with a lot of leisure time for your modern player, there is no mistaking one thing: It gets real Monday, when teams report to camps, and the pads and helmets get dusted off.
Oh, and you big, ugly linemen, forced to watch the pretty boys throw a ball around all summer in shorts? You can come back out to play.
How will Armwood respond? Offseasons don’t get any worse for a football team than the one the Hawks just lived through, but Monday will represent something of a fresh start for last year’s one-time Class 6A champs. Coach Sean Callahan will probably open practice by telling his players last season is over, no more talk about it, it’s time to move forward.
The Hawks, Tampa Bay’s best team in 2011, lost a lot, including their offensive and defensive lines, but return a wealth of talent, including the Times’ Player of the Year Alvin Bailey and defensive standout Leon McQuay III.
Keep an eye on quarterback Darryl Richardson. He struggled last year but looked very good this summer, and if he holds down the position the Hawks will be explosive again.
In order of who we think will win or get closest.
1. Plant (8A): Wont miss a beat, and might be better this year.
2. Clearwater Central Catholic (3A): Athletes all over the field.
3. Armwood (6A): May stumble during the season, but by playoff time look out.
4. East Lake (8A): Will have to get through Plant again, but why not?
5. Gaither (7A): Lakeland isn’t the obstacle it has been in the past.
1. Largo (6A): Armwood is one hurdle. Hillsborough, Jefferson or Sickles will others. I think they can get over each.
2. Tampa Bay Tech (7A): Loads of talent. Loads. Can it all come together? This could be the year.
3. Hillsborough (6A): Young quarterback and line, but some star power on defense will make life tough for Armwood.
4. Countryside (7A): May be built best to upset Bradenton Manatee. Maybe.
5. Carrollwood Day School/Admiral Farragut: Whoever wins Class 2A-5 is a state contender, but the rematch in the playoffs will be the big one.
1. Sickles: Solid quarterback in Nate Mills, a nice wide receiving corps, backs who can run and some studs on defense.
2. Pinellas Park: Will play power football, but the Patriots have big tackles, speedy backs and the Patriots defense will be one of the best around.
3. River Ridge: I’ll stick with my spring prediction of good things for the Royal Knights. Love the lines, there’s enough skill to produce behind it, and the Knights are poised to bust through.
4. Steinbrenner: Are the Warriors locked and loaded for some surprises? Their skill players had a nice 7-on-7 season; now it’s time to get to work in the trenches.
5. Chamberlain: Lots of buzz surrounding the Chiefs, who boast Xavier Johnson, one of the best running backs around.
New guys to watch
1. Admiral Farragut’s Cortavious Givens: Technically not a new guy, but he missed most of last season with a knee injury and his return should help compensate for a young offensive line. Healthy, he’s one of Tampa Bay’s best running backs.
2. Countryside’s Christian Strong: The quarterback, based on what we saw this spring and summer, is going to be one of Pinellas County’s best, but we’re also quite intrigued by Pinellas Park quarterback Taron Williams. He looked great in the spring, and if he’s for real, we’re eyeing a window seat on the Patriot bandwagon.
3. Plant receivers: An underrated group, and the addition of transfer Tristan Cooper makes it among the best in Tampa Bay.
4. CCC’s Kyle Brittain: Osceola transfer does so many things well, we see him as the guy who puts the Marauders over the top.
5. Strawberry Crest’s Alex Carswell: Missed last season, but his return and pairing with Karel Hamilton gives the Chargers a formidable pass-catching duo.
6. Berkeley Prep’s Brad Mayes: Heralded sophomore with lots of potential, steps in under center. Now he just needs a replacement for Nelson Agholor.
Biggest shoes to fill
1. Jacob Guy: Pasco has state championship talent all over the roster, and the biggest question is will they have a quarterback step up to drive the team to Orlando?
2. Tommy Eveld: Jesuit has state championship talent all over the roster, and the biggest question is will they have a quarterback step up to drive the team to Orlando? Wait, did we say that already?
3. Tyler Lane: East Lake running back was good for 100 yards and two scores every game. East Lake’s air attack should be one of the best around, but without a rushing attack it will wither in the postseason.
Toughest gigs for new coaches
1. Mike Alstott, Northside Christian: A-Train inherits a small, thin program. But he brings lots of football experience. Job requires a long-term commitment.
2. Mark Kantor, Hudson: See No. 1.
3. Dave Moore, Shorecrest: See No. 1.
4. Darryl Gordon, Blake: See No. 1.
5. Mike Thornton, Riverview: See No. 1.