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Fumbles slow progress of Bucs' speedy backs


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 25, 2001

Gulf coach Keith Newton and his staff did their best to keep Wednesday's intrasquad scrimmage fair. They even went so far as to select teams through a draft, mandating that a quarterback and center combination be the first picks.

Needless to say the Bucs coaches were disappointed to see the White team take a 20-0 lead in the first half.

However, three fumbles and an interception in the second half by the White team leveled the playing field as the Green team scored 21 unanswered points to take a one-point victory. "It was good to see one team not give up after being down 20 points," Newton said.

The White team opened up a big lead after a touchdown run by quarterback Jeff Blanchette and a 35-yard scoring pass from the rising sophomore to Larry Ulmer. Preston Mings added a 65-yard run for the White team's final score. But the momentum turned late in the first half after rising senior Bubba Violante capitalized on a White fumble with a touchdown run before halftime.

"There was some really good hitting out there. The new backs didn't do a good job of covering up the ball," Newton said. "The balls got knocked loose after some big runs. Those are things they'll have to learn."

Violante added another scoring run to cut the White's lead to 20-14. With five minutes remaining in the game, running back Trent Kennison scored the go-ahead touchdown.

The White team didn't give up until the final minutes following an interception. SPEED TO BURN: Fumbles aside, Newton was thrilled to see speedy running backs in his offense. "We've got some good new faces on offense," Newton said. "We have added some speed."

Mings flashed his speed on a 65-yard scoring run. Drew Roberts and Kennison, who also runs track, were also impressive. QUARTERBACK SHUFFLE: Three players made their pitches to replace graduated Paul Krisanda as the Bucs starting quarterback. Blanchette seemed to take the upper hand by accounting for two of the three White scores. "Blanchette looked the best overall through the spring," Newton said. "The good thing is that the other two made a lot of improvement. There's going to be a good competition there."

Rising junior Sean Collins and rising senior Chris Scott split time on the Green team. Scott sparked the comeback when he came in for Collins.

DEFENSIVE STARS: Lost in the onslaught of 41 total points were some great defensive performances.

Rising senior Mike Emmons dominated the line of scrimmage at defensive tackle for the White team and rising senior Ryan Kaller had an interception and some key tackles for the Green team at defensive back.

Middle linebackers Scott Burke and Violante also impressed with their performances for the Green team.

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