tampabay.com

Fast and furious

The Patriots are all about speed this year - on both sides of the ball.

By SCOTT PURKS
Published August 25, 2006


TAMPA - Calvin Smith and Eddie Davis, state track champion and state runnerup, respectively, graduated in 2006, no doubt leaving some folks thinking the Patriots football team would be slower.

Not so, says coach Adam Stegeman.

"Overall we'll be much faster," he said. "Pretty much every one of our guys can run really well. I mean, we're swarming to the ball, getting there a lot faster. You can just see the difference during practice. It's that noticeable."

The Patriots also are stronger, and this, Stegeman said, is more easily recorded.

Before the fall of 2005, Freedom had two guys bench more than 300. This year they had five. Last year five guys could push up more than 275. This year, 11.

And this year, Stegeman said, the most significant number might be that all of Freedom's starters not only run well but can bench press more than 200 pounds.

"Last year a bunch of us couldn't bench press more than 135," he said. "I'm not kidding."

Besides all the physical stuff, Stegeman, in his third year at the helm, said Freedom is on the same page mentally and with the playbook like no other time since he has been there.

"Even last year, my second year, we didn't know who was going to be starting in the second week," Stegeman said. "This year we pretty much knew who was going to be starting after spring practice.

"We also knew which guys needed more lower- or upper-body strength and how we needed to coach those guys up."

THROUGH THE AIR: The quarterback is Andrew Carr, who did not get many snaps playing behind Matt Kipp, who started the past three seasons. Carr, however, is a senior, and, according to Stegeman, a quick learner with quick feet and a solid arm.

Perhaps the best news for Carr is he has a couple of tall, athletic receivers - 6-foot-4 Alex Carr (no relation) and 6-foot-4 Anthony Williams - as targets. Might see a few alley-oop throws to those guys along the way.

Pass protection remains a bit of a question, not because the offensive line lacks athleticism but because it lacks experience.

ON THE GROUND: Gone is Davis, but returning is Louis Bonnet, who averaged 5.2 yards a rush on 117 carries.

Stegeman said the Patriots will run about as much as they pass, which has been the philosophy throughout his tenure.

"We'll run out of a bunch of different formations but we have similar plays for everything," Stegeman said. "Like I said, though, everybody is familiar with our system now. Should run a lot more smoothly."

DEFENSE: Can't talk about Freedom's D without starting with Matt Patchan, a 6-foot-7, 265-pound junior who has an offer from Miami.

Patchan, whose father played for Miami and the Philadelphia Eagles, was named the team's MVP last season and, Stegeman said, is the unquestionable leader heading into 2006.

Patchan, however, is far from the whole defensive story, considering that's where most of the Pats' speed lines up.