tampabay.com

Double duties come easily to Lecanto's Young

By DEREK LaRIVIERE
Published May 7, 2006


LECANTO - Adjusting on the run and learning quickly are two character traits that Dustin Young has had to develop over the course of his prep football career.

As a freshman on the Panthers' squad, Young proved his worth as the team's top linebacker, showing an athleticism that brought a smile to coach Bob LeCours' face every time he saw him make a tackle. He stormed onto the scene, making 82 tackles, while being named to the Times All-Citrus/Hernando First-Team Defense and to the Times All-Suncoast Football Team as an honorable mention.

"He has had one of the best learning curves I have ever seen," said LeCours. "He eats, breathes and lives football, and he's a real joy to coach."

This past season, Young became Lecanto's defensive leader. He led the program in tackles for the second straight season and was again honored on the Times All-Citrus/Hernando First-Team Defense. The real sign of things to come may have been on the offensive side of the ball.

Young gained 442 yards and a touchdown while averaging 4.2 yards per carry. He was a key cog to a Panthers' rushing attack that amassed more than 1,700 yards in 2005. Not too bad for a player who was not even supposed to be the starter.

Senior Kyle Ellis was penciled in as the starting fullback to lead the way for senior halfback Richard Chaney. Injuries, however, forced Ellis to the sidelines for most of the year, and LeCours called on Young.

"I have never been the type of coach that likes players playing both ways at key positions," said LeCours, "but I have a responsibility to put the best 11 players on the field at all times. We don't have a lot of depth, and Dustin really stepped up for us."

Young's sophomore season epitomized the phrase "iron man football" as he played almost every play in every Panthers game. While Chaney placed second in the county and led the team in rushing, Young laid down thankless blocks while receiving the occasional effective rushing attempt.

"I enjoy playing both ways," said Young, "but it wears on you a little over the course of the year. You just need to suck it up and do your best."

Lecanto finished 3-7 in a somewhat disappointing season, but further review of the schedule shows the toughness the team faced. Four of the school's 2005 opponents made the state playoffs.

"Believe it or not, I think we have a shot at winning the district title this season," said Young. "I should pick up most of the rushing load that Chaney is leaving behind. I have big goals - Lecanto in the playoffs and a 1,000-yard season for myself running the ball."

The schedule does not get any easier this season, and LeCours' preparation reflects that. With Chaney moving on with graduation, the question of who will take over was a hot topic.

While LeCours is not prepared to name a starter at halfback, Young may see more carries as the returning fullback because of the inexperience at running back. The two junior varsity tailbacks from 2005 are ineligible, leaving LeCours in this bind. There are several newcomers vying for the starting job behind Young, but no one has risen to the top.

"Obviously, Dustin is the frontrunner to get more carries," said LeCours. "However, our offense thrives on balance, so I can't go in with the intent of handing the ball to the fullback every down."

At 5 foot 9 and 185 pounds, Young is more in the mold of a fullback than a linebacker, but his (Miami Dolphins linebacker) Zach Thomas-like intensity and frame have made him a vicious hitter who is difficult to avoid.

Heading into his junior season, he will be expected to provide critical leadership. His experience and accolades have earned that recognition. The evidence: Young was voted the team's most valuable player on defense by his teammates for the past two years.

"They count on me to bring intensity game in and game out," said Young. "It's important that I don't let them down."