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Hernando County's college players to watch

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002


Local residents have long prided themselves on the sporting exploits of their native sons on football fields beyond Hernando County borders.

Local residents have long prided themselves on the sporting exploits of their native sons on football fields beyond Hernando County borders.

There was George Floyd, Maulty Moore, Ricky Feacher and Jerome Brown among many. While the county's current crop of collegians has a lot to prove individually to be compared to these players, collectively they may be the best Hernando has had in college at any one time.

In Chris Daley, Dee Brown, Steve Cassell (Hernando), and Huey Whittaker (Springstead), the county has four players who will play large roles in determining their teams' seasons. Willie Winslett could vie for time on the offensive line at Eastern Kentucky, and although erstwhile offensive lineman Joe Condron has quit the Chowan (N.C.) College team, according to coaches, locals Jimmy Sterling, Ed LaRose and Mike Lastra are expected to start there.

A look at the players to watch:

DALEY, SR., DL, SOUTH FLORIDA: The end was named to the Football News Preseason All-Independent Team after amassing 42 tackles (13 for loss) and 9.5 sacks last season. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder and opposite end Shurron Pierson form a daunting duo.

WHITTAKER, JR., WR, SOUTH FLORIDA: The 6-5, 235-pounder became a major part of the Bulls' offense last season, using his imposing frame to position himself for a team-record 52 catches for 548 yards. An even bigger season is imperative if quarterback Marquel Blackwell and the Bulls are to legitimize themselves as a Division I-A program against Oklahoma and Arkansas.

"It's been amazing (Whittaker's progress since joining the program)," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "Not only has he become a very good receiver -- he really gives us a big target -- but he's been an awfully good leader for us as well.

"You know he power-cleaned 340 pounds? He broke the wide receiver record. A wide receiver that power cleans 340 -- think about that. At 6-5, 235, and he runs under 4.6. He's impressive."

BROWN, SOPH., FB, CENTRAL FLORIDA: Brown emerged from the shadow of incumbent Sean Gaudion to rush nine times for 53 yards and a touchdown and earn a higher profile in the offense this season. Brown is expected to at least split time or play alone in a one-back set this season. Last spring, he became the first in Knights history to score a touchdown and hit a home run in the same school year.

CASSELL, FR., DL, EASTERN KENTUCKY: The 6-2, 240-pound freshman is battling several other underclassmen at left end after continuing a long tradition of Hernando players (namely Floyd) at the school.

-- Times wtaff writer Pete Young contributed to this report.

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