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Buoyed by experience, athleticism

Those missing parts led to bad execution, low scoring last season.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002


INVERNESS -- Citrus easily could blame many of its 2001 struggles on bad breaks and inexperience.

But the players have no intention of doing that. Instead of looking for excuses, they have accepted full accountability.

"It was execution," junior quarterback Casey Snyder said. "All 11 guys didn't execute at the same time enough."

One key to success this fall will be getting everyone on the same page. Although the Hurricanes again are young, they have more experience at crucial positions and, perhaps even better, more athleticism across the board.

"A lot of kids will be helped by that year of experience," coach Larry Bishop said.

The offense averaged an area-worst 12.3 points a game, but should be greatly improved.

The offensive line returns several starters and figures to be strengthened by newcomers Brandon Green and Dominique Washington. The group, according to line coach Brady Bogart, has the potential to shine.

Snyder (49-of-109, 629 yards, 2 TDs, 10 INTs) leads a backfield that includes athletic running backs R.J. Cobb, Courtney Henry and Brendan Smith. Snyder has more confidence in his ability and a better understanding of the offense, while Cobb and Henry have big-play potential, something Citrus lacked in 2001.

Snyder's top targets are Mike Brown, Isaiah Webb and Keith Zigler. Webb was among the county leaders in catches last year, but was the 'Canes' lone clutch receiver. With Brown and Zigler joining Webb, Snyder has more weapons to stretch opposing defenses.

"I have a lot of guys to throw to now," Snyder said. "Last year I had one guy. The offense should be a lot better."

Defensively, Citrus struggled with fundamentals (namely tackling) in 2001, resulting in numerous clock-eating drives that kept the 'Canes' offense off the field.

This fall, the unit will be led by its speedy group of defensive backs -- Brown, Cobb, Henry, Snyder, Webb and Zigler. The 'Canes hope the cornerbacks and safeties won't be forced to make as many touchdown-saving tackles as in 2001. End Steve Strong leads up front and sophomore Gene Himmel is the top linebacker.

Zigler is one of the region's premier kickers.

HURRICANES PLAYBOOK

OFFENSE: After an off-year, Citrus now has the players to attack teams on the ground or through the air. The Hurricanes use three running backs in their base formation, but because they have an increased confidence in quarterback Casey Snyder and more athleticism than in the past, don't be surprised to see three, four and even five receivers in certain situations. Citrus would like to have a 50-50 run-pass blend, but will let the course of the game dictate things. Running backs R.J. Cobb and Courtney Henry are inexperienced, but have big-play capability. Receivers Mike Brown, Isaiah Webb and Keith Zigler give Snyder plenty of options. And keep an eye on 6-foot-10 tight end Brandon Green, who is yet another threat.

DEFENSE: The 'Canes use a 5-2 base set that places an emphasis on stopping the run. End Steve Strong is a force up front and leads a solid group of linemen. The top linebackers are Chris Albrecht and Gene Himmel. Citrus' strength is its backs -- Brown, Cobb, Henry, Snyder, Webb and Zigler, an athletic group that covers well and makes plays. Last year, this unit had too many missed tackles and allowed opposing offenses to run the clock. For that not to happen again, the front seven needs to step up.

CITRUS HURRICANES

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