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Gulf: Keep an eye on ...

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Defensive coordinator Shaun Wiemer cringes when he hears the numbers. There were two games last season when his unit gave up 37 points, two games allowing 48, another of 50 and a whopping 69 against River Ridge.

So entering this year, with no offensive juggernauts lurking and the real possibility that 21 points by the offense could win a few games, Wiemer made changes.

Only three starters have held on to their spots: lineman Mike Emmons (43 tackles), linebacker Bubba Violante (73 tackles) and safety Ryan Kaller, who was second in Pasco County with four interceptions.

What Wiemer wants to do is employ a "fast-break" defense that is aggressive and high-pressure. But to do that he needs speed and might have found it.

Emmons, an end last year, moves to tackle with new starter Larry Ulmer. Emmons' replacement is Tarpon Springs transfer Clifton McLeod, who Wiemer thinks is the defensive sleeper this year. On the other side is Texas transfer Preston Mings.

At linebacker, Scott Burke (ineligible), Jordan Stewart (a sophomore) and Tim Tracy (junior varsity last year) join Violante and make up a faster but more inexperienced group. At the corners, Kyle Holt returns and will share time with speedy newcomers Keith Delgado and Trent Kennison. Kaller and jayvee starter Fernando Rodriguez man the safety spots.

"We tried to put more of our better athletes on the corner and at defensive end," Wiemer said.

"We've got better, quicker people there on the ends that we know can get to a sideline and also take on a block. And in our defensive backfield we seem to have a few more athletes. We are definitely in a much better position all-around this year."

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