tampabay.com

'Round the county in 12 days

Land O'Lakes.

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published May 31, 2007


A team-by-team look at Pasco County football:

Land O'Lakes

Coach: John Benedetto

Last year: The Gators lost their season opener, then won nine straight games to claim a district title. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to Chamberlain.

District: Class 4A-8 (Central, Ridgewood, River Ridge, Springstead, Tarpon Springs)

Did you know?: Incoming freshman Steve Weatherford could be the most talented of all his brothers and will try to become the third from his family to start at quarterback, following in the steps of UCF's Joe and FSU's Drew.

Breakout player: John Weatherford doesn't throw passes like his brothers, so grabbing the spotlight has been no easy task. And maybe this year, it will be more of the same as another quarterback-playing brother shows up. But chances are this will be his season as Benedetto brings his younger quarterbacks along by making John Weatherford the focal pointy of the offense. A bruising runner with enough speed to break a big one or two, John Weatherford could see 20-30 carries a game and help the Gators grind opposing defenses into the ground.

Who's back: The aforementioned Weatherford, as well as fellow linebacker Nick Castellano, head up a defense that lost a lot of talent but is always solid under the tutelage of coordinator Tom Carter. Kicker Alex Spock will be a valuable weapon for the Gators with his plus-50-yard range and booming kickoffs. And as always, the Gators staff is intact for another year and that always seems worth a victory or two.

What's new: The Gators' running game, which has been in the shadows during the Weatherfords Era, should be a significant part of the offense. Of course that may not last long as the last (and possibly most anticipated) of the Weatherford boys, freshman Steve, shows up on campus. And a new district could make things interesting. The Gators drop from 5A to 4A and leave behind the likes of Wharton, Wesley Chapel and Gaither. But they run smack dab into Ridgewood, which will be one of the county's best teams, and solid clubs on each side of the county in Tarpon Springs and Central.

Spring revelation: Wide receiver Alex Robinson was the smallest player on the field this spring, but did a good job doing the most important thing of all - catching Benedetto's eye. The diminutive receiver (about 5-foot-7) showed a knack for getting open and catching everything thrown his way, even against bigger defenders, and has good enough speed to be a breakaway threat once he gets the ball. "He's been very impressive out here, " Benedetto said. "He's only going to be a sophomore, but if he's the best one he's going to play."