Maturity matters

Backed by a solid defense, a talented and deeper offense should settle in nicely this season.

Published August 25, 2006

WESLEY CHAPEL - Greg Jenkins heads into this season as the No. 1 quarterback, having emerged from a three-way battle and starting half of last season's games.

That experience, coupled with the return of tailback Mario Melvin and the arrival of transfer receiver Ashton Lemon, should help the Wildcats avoid a repeat of last season's 3-7 mark that halted a four-year playoff run.

"We're a little more mature," coach John Castelamare said. "We should be a better team."

As for Jenkins, a junior who passed for 328 yards with six interceptions and no touchdowns last season, better numbers are what he, his coach and teammates expect.

"He has those five games under his belt," Castelamare said. "He's getting better, he's getting stronger."

For his part, Jenkins is looking forward to another year running the Wing-T formation Castelamare has used in coaching stints at Wesley Chapel and Ridgewood.

"I like the spread and I can run, too," Jenkins said, adding, "I've got high expectations. I'm more comfortable now. I throw the ball good."

During spring and preseason practices, Jenkins and Lemon, a senior who ran track for the Wildcats after a midseason transfer from St. Petersburg Lakewood, developed a connection in the passing game.

"Jenkins will look for (Lemon), who can run after the catch," said Wesley Chapel assistant Brian Colding, who also coached both in track. "(Lemon's) got good hands and he's not afraid to go get the ball."

As tight as that passing duo has become, Lemon is one of four targets. Jenkins also has been connecting with Michael Alvin, Chris Soto and Marlin McRae.

Wesley Chapel was more successful running than passing last season and should be just as effective, if not more so, moving the ball on the ground this fall. Melvin, a junior, was the county's fifth-leading rusher in 2005 with 763 yards and 11 touchdowns. Evan Mills, Avery Clemmons and Darian Tookes also should get their share of carries.

No doubt the Wildcats offense could be explosive this season. That, to a large degree, hinges on the offensive line. Returning guards Kamran Joyer and George Ford are the anchors or a unit that includes Patrick Pate and Charles VanZandt.

On the other side of the ball, foes will be going up against one of the county's fiercest linebacking units. That group is led by Vince Chalecki - who is coming off a stellar season (102 tackles, 82 of which were solos) and appears fully recovered from a knee injury - Raymond Rouch and Mills.

"Last year, I felt we should have been .500," Castelamare said. "We were better than that record."