First-year Robinson coach Shawn Taylor navigates practices these days in a sleek new golf cart with shiny rims and the Knights’ logo emblazoned on the side. • It’s one of the few fully loaded units on Jack Peters Field. Taylor, a Knights alumnus selected to replace retiring Port Tampa icon Mike DePue, lost 26 players — 16 of them starters — from last season’s 12-2 Class 5A state semifinalist.
Among the departures: every single starting offensive and defensive lineman. As consolation, Taylor has 78 players this spring, some of whom he hopes can evolve into blockers and bull rushers.
“These (new linemen) are going to have to have a heck of a summer to get by,” said Taylor, whose team also must transition from 5A to the daunting nine-team 6A-8 district (with Armwood, Hillsborough, Jefferson, etc.). “But we’re going to get there.”
The Knights’ strengths will be directly behind the rebuilt lines.
At running back, Taylor said 5-foot-5, 210-pound rising junior Michael Duclos (38 carries, 221 yards in ’12) is being pushed hard by chiseled classmate Aivory Foster (5-8, 176), who owns a 275-pound bench press and recently was named a “lieutenant” team captain.
On the opposite side, rising seniors Jordan Guyton (99 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks) and Javaughn Johnson (school-record six defensive TDs) anchor a sturdy set of linebackers. Guyton, the primary team captain, was defensive MVP last year.
“We’ve always expected to win at Robinson and we’re going to expect to win,” Taylor said. “I expect to be in the playoff hunt still.”
Seffner Christian coach Steve Lewis, navigating practices this spring with a new artificial left knee, said the Crusaders likely will remain independent — as members of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference — until at least 2015.
SCA is entering its fourth season of existence. “Originally, we wanted to be in a district by now,” said Lewis, who had 24 players suited up Wednesday. “But we took a long, hard look at it and decided it would be best to stay in (the SSAC) for two more years.”
By then, Lewis is hopeful the Crusaders’ on-campus feeder program — a fledgling middle school team — will be in place. Lewis said that squad currently has roughly 18 players.
“Enrollment is going through the roof as far as Seffner Christian Academy is concerned,” he said.
“Last year, I probably had to get rid of 12 to 14 (players). This offseason, I haven’t had to tell anybody to take a hike. It’s self-policing now. They get it.”
Chamberlain second-year coach D.J. Mayo, who currently has more than 40 out for spring drills
Number of the day
42 College recruiters — all representing different schools — who have stopped by Taylor’s office on Robinson’s campus since May 1
Photo: Robinson's Michael Duclos