Turning the corner

Despite a lengthy losing streak, coach Joe Severino likes the attitude, work ethic of this year's Lions.

Published August 25, 2006

TAMPA - King has struggled mightily recently, compiling a 6-34 mark, including 0-10 last season, over the past four years.

But despite the mounting losses, coach Joe Severino is optimistic about his team's chances this season.

"Our summer workouts were probably the best we've had since I've been here," said Severino, who enters his seventh season coaching the Lions.

"I told them there are three things we need to worry about: great conditioning, team spirit and skill. We've got enough skill to win, and we can work on the other two."

Severino took more than 20 players to a USF 7-on-7 camp in July and feels like his team's work habits over the summer will translate into wins this season.

"We've got a good core nucleus, and they've been very diligent," he said.

THROUGH THE AIR: Severino feels the offense, with a better passing game, should be more diverse this season.

"We're passing the ball better than we have been," he said. "I think we're farther ahead than we've been. Our offense will be more balanced this year.

The Lions will continue to utilize a Wing-T offense with multiple formations and motion. Keith Graham, a 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore quarterback, will lead the attack.

"He really throws the ball well, is a decent runner and has good size," Severino said. "He's improved tremendously and did a real nice job in the spring for us."

When the Lions throw it, they will look for tight ends Ricky Tennant and Kevin Donaldson and senior receiver Lionel Fuentes.

ON THE GROUND: Severino hopes a solid offensive line can help anchor the running game, including 6-foot-2, 300-pound right tackle and Division I prospect Devon Greenwald.

"Our O-line is good, but we have no depth," he said. "We should be able to run a little bit and open up our play-action passing."

Rodney Pugh, a 225-pound sophomore fullback, will get the bulk of the carries.

"He tells me ,'I'm a running back, not a fullback,' " Severino said. "He makes us go. He could really set the tone for us this year."

Seniors Mike Wilson and Dwayne Callaway are both quick guys that could get some carries as well. Callaway played at King as a sophomore, transferred to Durant his junior year and is back for the Lions this season.

DEFENSE: King switched to a 3-5 defense last year with limited success. Because of that, Severino said the Lions will play a 50 defense this year to fit the team's personnel. Earl Garcia III, son of Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia, will take over as defensive coordinator after coaching the defensive line last year.

"He's very organized and has everything planned so well," Severino said. "The kids really relate to him as well. I think he's been big for us on the defensive side of the ball.

Garcia will have standout defensive linemen Ali Khan and Joe Level to work with. Level, a 6-foot, 255-pounder, is also the No. 1 backup at all of the offensive line positions.

"Level's going to cause a lot of havoc for quarterbacks this fall," Severino said.