© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002
ST. PETERSBURG -- Some advice for those going to watch Admiral Farragut this season: Don't sit too close to the field. The Blue Jackets are probably going to use every inch of it.
New coach Mark Robertson inherits only 13 returning players. Still, with four possessing 4.6 speed in the 40 and faster, it's a sure bet Robertson won't impose a boring playbook on his troops.
"We looking for a lot more balance (run-to-pass)," he said. "We should be able to stretch the field a little bit this year."
The Blue Jackets are coming off 10-0 and 7-3 seasons, and last year's squad finished second in the district. Robertson guided Haines City Landmark Christian to two state titles in the '90s. He replaces Mike Jalazo, now at Clearwater Central Catholic.
"We have a new staff, a lot of new faces, and we're learning a new offense and a new defense," Robertson said. With speed and experience at the skill positions as a strength, Robertson cited depth, chemistry and some key injuries at linebacker as his major concerns.
"We're going to have to find the combinations and get the right guys at the right spots on the offensive line," he said. "Also, we've got a couple linebackers nicked up already and one of them (Hunter Marner) is out until the third week of the season."
THROUGH THE AIR: Senior Marshall Hampton again will get the nod at quarterback. Hampton has 4.5 speed, is quickly learning how to operate the I and Split Pro offense and will be asked to put it in the air more often.
When he does, senior flanker Jon Whitehead (4.4 speed) will be his main man. Whitehead may also see some time in the backfield. Two juniors, Tommy Lampley and Sterling Williams, are vying for the wide receiver slot.
ON THE GROUND: Running back looks to be one of the biggest assets. Senior James Lowe (4.6 speed) has looked good and will be complemented by junior transfer Vince Patterson (4.5). Another transfer, senior Gates Garcia, has an inflamed back but should be ready soon. Garcia starred for Berkeley Prep last season.
Some of Robertson's possible combinations in the trenches include plenty of size and experience. Seniors Ron Blair (5-10, 200), Julio Viana (6-2, 220) and Ryan Hoagland (6-0, 220) should start, with Blair at either center or guard, Viana at tackle or center, and Hoagland a guard.
Sophomore Cameron Young (6-0, 224) is improving and may get the nod at a tackle.
DEFENSE: The Blue Jackets' depth is another strength. Senior defensive tackle Nick Smoak (6-1, 270) will join Viana, Hoagland and Garcia on the line. Junior transfer Christopher Cranfield will start at linebacker and Lowe and Williams at defensive ends. In the backfield, Robertson has arguably the best in the district in Lampley, Whitehead, Patterson and Hampton.
JUST FOR KICKS: Senior Brett Kitenplon will handle the kicking and punting chores.