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Thin Hurricanes have many holes to fill

With 15 starters graduated from last year's team, Citrus takes rebuilding to another level.

By KEITH NIEBUHR

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001


INVERNESS -- Graduation wasn't kind to Citrus.

Sixteen lettermen are gone from last season's 4-6 team. Fifteen were starters.

Coach Larry Bishop describes the Hurricanes' situation like this: "It's a total overhaul."

What hasn't changed?

Citrus still expects to compete for a playoff spot.

"We feel real comfortable with what we have," Bishop said. "I feel like we can be competitive. The young kids we have, have stepped up."

The roster consists of 20 players who are either sophomores or juniors. Many of those were junior varsity players in 2000. Not that that's a bad thing. The JV lost once in seven games last season.

"The guys new to the varsity program have done a great job," Bishop said. "They're doing well right now. I've really been pleased with the younger kids."

In numbers alone, Citrus' losses from last season are substantial. But when one takes a closer look at exactly who departed, the Hurricanes' task becomes daunting. For the most part, every significant skill player from 2000 is gone.

"We really lost a lot of guys in key positions," Bishop said.

The most significant loss might be quarterback Sam McLain, a freshman at Air Force. McLain led the Citrus-Hernando area in passing yardage, played defense from time to time and was a Times All-Suncoast second-team pick as a punter.

McLain will be replaced by either Casey Snyder or Isaiah Webb.

"Isaiah has a real good short passing game and runs the ball well," Bishop said. "He's real field smart and he's a tough, gritty kid. He does certain things good.

"Casey throws a real nice ball, has great touch on the ball and a real strong arm. He loves to throw the deep ball and he runs the offense well. He has a true command of the offense and he's field smart, too. We feel strongly about either one."

The next hole is at placekicker.

During the past two years, Matt Davis solidified himself as the county's top kicker. Last season, he hit 12 of 16 field goals (with a long of 54 yards) and booted 18 of 28 kickoffs into the end zone.

"That's a huge loss," Bishop said.

Another huge loss comes in the offensive backfield, where the team's two biggest playmakers -- Joe Calcagino and Clayton Swearingen -- have departed. Citrus also had its entire defensive backfield graduate and will need to replace two key offensive linemen.

Depth is another concern since the Hurricanes begin the season with 31 players, about a dozen less than last year.

"Our depth is a glaring weakness," Bishop said. "It's our top concern. Any key injury here or there could cause a lot of problems."

The top returning players are two-way standouts Derek Cline, Charles Edward Staten and Justin Taylor. Each is talented enough to play in college.

This trio will be asked to lead on and off the field.

"Being so young, we're going to need the leadership qualities that they bring to the team," Bishop said. "They're the type of kids who lead by example. That's really what we're looking for in leaders."

Despite Citrus' inexperience, Bishop is excited and ready to see what transpires. A relatively favorable early-season schedule could allow the young team to get off to a good start.

"We're really looking forward to getting out there and hitting somebody in a different colored jersey," Bishop said. "Once they get out on the field and are under the lights, it'll be interesting to see how the younger kids step up and play."

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