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Land O'Lakes: Keep an eye on...

By STEVE LEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001


LAND O'LAKES -- The last three years, Godfrey Pestana slicing and dicing defenses was a mainstay of Land O'Lakes football. Defenses need not be concerned about being carved up by Pestana's replacements.

LAND O'LAKES -- The last three years, Godfrey Pestana slicing and dicing defenses was a mainstay of Land O'Lakes football. Defenses need not be concerned about being carved up by Pestana's replacements.

Yes, replacements. Plural.

Before Pestana, the Gators traditionally shuttled in running backs with plays, and in any given game utilized a half-dozen players in the backfield. That strategy returns this season.

"They're a dime a dozen for us," defensive backs coach Rock Ridgeway said of the stable of ball carriers, many of whom will also play in the secondary.

Chris Clarke, the leading ground-gainer among the current backs with 221 rushing yards last season, and possibly junior varsity standout Chris Perez, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored 12 touchdowns a year ago, might get more carries than the others.

"No one back will see more than 10 (carries)," Clarke said.

Still, Land O'Lakes fans can count on Giovanni Benedetto, coach John Benedetto's son, Greg Rosenthal, Tommy Hoskins, Keith Elser, Adam Denicourt and Mark Lang to carry the football.

Handing off to all those runners will be rifle-armed sophomore Drew Weatherford, the centerpiece of the offense. Benedetto said those running backs also will see their share of passes.

"We're going to be a completely different football team," Benedetto said. "It's not like we're going to rely on one guy to carry the ball 25 times."

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