BROOKSVILLE — Whether the audience is recruiters from across the country or fast-food patrons at a recent Nature Coast fundraiser at Wendy’s, offensive tackle Christian Pellage always ends up as the focal point.
“Pellage is a name everyone wants to see,” first-year Sharks coach Justin Worden said.
And with good reason.
Rivals and 247Sports both consider Pellage a four-star prospect and one of the country’s top 200 recruits. His few dozen offers include every major state school along with Ohio State, Alabama, Oklahoma and Oregon.
One look at his athleticism and long arms show why. NCT listed him at 6-foot-7, 250 pounds at the start of last fall. By the final weightlifting meet this spring, he was up to 291 with wide shoulders ready to absorb even more growth.
“You get a lot of high school linemen, when they weigh 290, they’re a little heavy,” Worden said. “He’s just lanky.”
As Nature Coast prepares to shift from a power rushing attack to a spread-based run game, Pellage’s development will be key on a line that should have plenty of size. Speedster DeShawn Smith rushed for more than 700 yards as a sophomore last fall, despite battling injuries.
Pellage’s biggest task will be to anchor a big line and keep Smith healthy for a Sharks team looking for its first playoff appearance since 2009.
“As big as (Pellage) is, you expect him to be a dominant force,” Worden said. “We should be able to put him either side we want. If he’s down-blocking, we know we’re getting the movement. If he’s pulling, we know those linebackers are going to get swallowed.”
Big holes to fill on the O-line
Alonso: Gary Brown barely played football at all until his sophomore year at Alonso, but the 6-foot-1, 290-pound Georgia Tech-bound offensive lineman went on to anchor the Ravens’ line for three years.
“A Gary Brown is hard to replace,” coach Brian Emmanuel said. “You get one of those every 10 years, maybe. But I think that’s the exciting thing about coaching.”
The Ravens will return just one starter from their 2013 offensive line. But that one Raven, Emmanuel said, is a valuable one.
Christian Loubriel is a 6-foot-3, 265-pound tackle Emmanuel thinks will have a breakout season, especially protecting a quarterback like Chris Oladokun who has experience under his belt.
“He’s got big things ahead of him,” Emmanuel said.
East Lake: The most glaring hole is at left tackle, the spot four-star recruit Mason Cole occupied the past three seasons before moving on to Michigan. The Eagles’ plan in the spring is to move left guard Julian Santos to tackle.
Santos, a 6-foot-3, 305 pound rising junior, played well as a starter during East Lake’s playoff run last season. Coach Bob Hudson said he should pick up offers from schools later this spring.
“You don’t just replace a Mason Cole,” Hudson said. “But I know Julian will do a good job over there. He has a lot of adjustments to make switching to tackle, but I’m sure he’ll pick it up pretty quick.”
Weeki Wachee: Heading into the program’s third season of varsity play, the Hornets have the task of replacing the most talented player the school has produced, Rutgers signee Marcus Applefield.
Applefield, who graduated in December so he could enroll at Rutgers early, anchored the Hornets’ offensive line. Brice Spalding (6-2, 265), a rising senior, will slip into Applefield’s spot at left tackle, leading the most experienced asset the team has.
“Brice is a three-year starter who works hard and loves the game,” coach Mark Lee said.
• Clearwater Central Catholic tackle Billy Atterbury is getting lots of attention from big-time colleges. The 6-4, 285-pound rising senior is rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports and already has offers from six schools, including Syracuse, UCF and USF. This spring he said schools such as Clemson, North Carolina State and Oregon have stopped by to watch him in practice.
• East Bay returns only two offensive linemen who started for last year’s district champions: Johnny Crews and college prospect Caleb Holley. Keep an eye on Caleb Gregory, who’s moved back to East Bay from Strawberry Crest. The 2016 prospect already checks in at 6-foot-5, 270 pounds.
• Recruiters have stopped by Chamberlain to take a peek at tackle Zach Bendure, who has grown to 6-foot-5, 270 pounds. Chiefs two-way lineman Robert Mosley has plenty of athleticism — he qualified for the Class 2A state wrestling tournament this winter.
• Hudson graduates some of its top linemen but returns massive tackle Grayson Stover. The North Suncoast’s top 2016 prospect is already considered a four-star recruit thanks to a 6-foot-6, 300-pound frame.
Fivay linebacker Christian Breviario has accepted an appointment to play football at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Fivay announced Friday morning. He was second on the Falcons with 98 tackles last fall.
Staff writers Kelly Parsons and Bob Putnam, and correspondent Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.