tampabay.com

His day in the sun

Mike Fenton finally settles in as a head coach, and his roster is none too shabby.

By SCOTT PURKS
Published August 25, 2006


TAMPA - About the only thing Mike Fenton hasn't done in Hillsborough County prep football is serve as a head coach.

He has, in the following order, been a county prep assistant since 1977 at Robinson, Tampa Catholic, Plant, East Bay, Armwood, Robinson, Tampa Catholic and Jefferson.

The past six have been at Jefferson where he has been the offensive coordinator and had, under then-head coach Mike Simmonds, 100 percent control of the offense.

Now Fenton has 100 percent control of everything, as in he is the head coach, albeit for just six months.

"The thing is," he said, "I don't feel any different. I had so much responsibility before and I've been doing this so long that this just doesn't feel like that big of a transition. More paperwork, yes, and more questions to answer from more people, but as far as coaching day to day, no, it's not that big of a deal. I'm about as busy as I ever was."

Perhaps the best news for Fenton is he can hit the ground running this season because much of his top talent and most of his coaching staff is returning from a playoff-tested team.

One coaching addition Fenton is particularly encouraged about is Lee Meitzler, who came from Hillsborough and is taking over as defensive coordinator.

THROUGH THE AIR: It's no secret Jefferson is blessed at quarterback with Stephen Garcia, who is being recruited by major colleges across the country. Garcia's stock could rise, because at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, he is stronger and faster than ever, which could be of great concern to opposing teams.

In his career, Garcia has completed 319 passes in 533 attempts for 5,315 yards and 54 touchdowns against just 18 interceptions.

This year, however, he might have his strongest receiving corps.

He has seven receivers - Evan Cromer, Byron McLeod, Anthony Mackinnon, Marcelino Rodriguez, Danario Smith, Lester Lewis and Anthony Williams - who could each catch double-digit passes this season.

ON THE GROUND: This year's backs - Darrius Faison, Jamil Crews and Jamal Delgado - haven't been overly tested, but they appear to have jumped right in without missing a beat.

Relatively small, none taller than 5 feet 10, all have clocked 40-yard times under 4.6 seconds.

"Quick and fast, but also durable," Fenton said. "We really like these guys' potential."

DEFENSE: If anything has held Jefferson back the past few years it has been the defense, which has given up big points in many crucial games.

Meitzler comes in after several years learning at Hillsborough, a traditionally tough defensive team.

Meitzler certainly will have his share of talent to work with, including three potential Division I prospects: defensive ends Demarcus Cleveland and Tyler Hardin and safety Kevin Brown.