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Instant seasoning

With a new coach and plenty of new faces, the Eagles are scrambling to pack in pigskin knowledge.

By JOEY KNIGHT
Published August 25, 2006


BRANDON - John Lima is simultaneously trying to sell his yet-to-be-completed Port Charlotte home and purchase another one nearer to his new job. Meantime, he is overseeing a floor-to-ceiling overhaul of the locker room he inherited.

On the day Lima was to meet a reporter to discuss the prospects of his new team, he conducted the interview in his car between stops at a local credit union and bank.

"I like the hectic pace," first-year Brandon coach Lima said.

Accordingly, things have been no less frantic on the practice field. The promising talent Lima inherited from Jim Wilt has been offset by the team's youth. As a result, the 37-year-old rookie varsity head coach is trying to cram months of tutelage into one preseason.

"We're young and talented," said Lima, a coaching journeyman who spent two seasons as current Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban's defensive graduate assistant at Michigan State.

"Most teams that are sitting there with a normal group of seniors, come Week 4, they're pretty much going to be where they're going to be for most of the season. For us, if we were to follow a typical learning curve, we're going to hit our peak at Week 7 or 8, which is not good for the early games as far as your win-loss record.

"So we're trying to do everything we can to try to get the kids prepared quicker than they really should be."

THROUGH THE AIR: Despite one of the most proven backfields in the area, Lima has scrapped Wilt's Wing-T attack in favor of an NFL-style offense with diverse formations and motions to create balance.

Junior Tracy Burr replaces three-year starter Tyson Gordon at quarterback and should have an array of potentially solid targets, including senior Phillip Henderson and juniors Samir Baker, Jeremy Tillman and Javoris Lucas. Burr is "very mechanically sound," Lima said, "probably the most sound quarterback that I've seen in high school anywhere."

ON THE GROUND: Despite his quest for balance, Lima likely won't be able to resist the urge to give a steady supply of handoffs to senior Mike Brown, who has amassed more than 2,600 rushing yards in the past two seasons.

Brown ran for 1,337 yards in the 2005 regular season, scoring 17 touchdowns and averaging 7.3 yards a carry.

Junior Marquel Gilmore, who ran for almost 700 yards last year, will complement Brown. The pair will operate behind a young line spearheaded by undersized junior left guard Aaron Fullenwider.

DEFENSE: Pressure will be the emphasis of Lima's 4-3 scheme, which could be blitz-heavy if he can keep his talented defensive backs in man coverage.

Captain Wale Agbede and Tyrone Comer are solid safeties, Lima said, while twins Steve and Michael Young will provide depth at safety and corner. Brown, Lucas and Samir also might log action in the secondary.

Gilmore, whose primary position is linebacker, will occupy the middle, while junior Kenny Baines likely will play one of the outside spots. Seniors Sean Patrick and Curt McKay - both Temple Heights transfers - will vie for time at linebacker.

Up front, brawny junior defensive end Westly Williams could emerge as a college prospect. Junior team captain Adam Young is the Eagles' most solid tackle.

"(Williams) is another kid we expect a great deal out of," Lima said. "We're going to put him in a position where he can work out in space and use his strength and athleticism and try to disrupt what the offense does."