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Titans must replace talented players

However, coach John Colbert believes TBT can contend for its second consecutive playoff berth.

By JEREMY RASMUSSEN

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001


However, coach John Colbert believes TBT can contend for its second consecutive playoff berth.

TAMPA -- A year after its first-ever playoff appearance, Tampa Bay Tech has lost a lot of speed and talent to graduation. So why does coach John Colbert have a sly smile on his face?

"We lost some kids who were a big part of our program over the past three years," Colbert said. "But hopefully, we've reached the point of being a program that doesn't have to rebuild, just reload."

Actually, Colbert said in a sense, the team is rebuilding because it will alter its game plan to fit the capabilities of its current personnel. But fortunately for the Titans, that includes starting quarterback Tyrone Timmons and 1,000-yard rusher Lynne Moore.

The Titans remain in Class 4A, District 8, and although neighborhood rival King moved to Class 5A, powerful Armwood and Jefferson have moved in.

"That raises the bar in the district," Colbert said.

TBT still faces King (in the second game of the season), and the Titans have won two in a row in the series.

If it can top Plant for the first time in three tries, beat back an improved Brandon squad and take care of business against Sickles, the Titans will again vie for a playoff berth. "We feel real comfortable with our players," Colbert said. "We have a lot of confidence, and they're happy, too."

OFFENSE: TBT will have to fill the wide receiver spots, but the line and backfield remain mostly intact. Colbert said he will stick with its plan of trying to mix up the running and passing plays to stretch the field.

The line averages 250 pounds, and all of them can run well. Eric Clark (tackle and defensive end) and Ramon Surreller (guard and defensive end) will play both ways.

"We're expecting a lot out of our offensive line," Colbert said. "They're an all-senior group."

The Titans have a lot of coaching experience as well in former NFL linemen Eric Floyd and Leonard Rush. Before moving to Florida, Rush coached in Lima, Ohio, for 17 years and won a state title. With a lack of experience at receiver, Timmons has had to mature quickly as the offensive leader. Look for speedy junior Romae Rucker to emerge from the shadows of last year's standout receivers to be Timmons' top target.

Moore was the surprise of the Titans last year. He became one of the county's top running backs with his hard-nosed style and breakaway capability.

"I like to say that his eyes and feet match," Colbert said. "He doesn't waste any moves. Everything he does has a purpose.

"He's the ideal back. He has soft hands, so he can catch the ball out of the backfield. And he has a low center of gravity. He's hard to bring down."

DEFENSE: Colbert is preaching the same philosophy that took the team from a winless season three years ago to the playoffs last year: Tough defense wins games.

"We started with that philosophy when we couldn't score," he said. "Now hopefully, we can."

The Titans are thin at linebacker and secondary, but what they do have is impressive. Marcus Wesley and Maurice Crum return at middle linebacker and weakside linebacker, respectively. Chris Plumley will play the strongside.

In the secondary, Kevin King and David Daymond will play the corners and Yuri Higgins and Kareem Brown will be the safeties.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Colbert said he feels confident with kicker Don Jones, who was perfect on extra points last year.

Jason Carr is the kickoff man. Punter Anthony Valdes has a good leg and places the ball well.

With Moore returning kicks and punts, the Titans tend to have decent starting field position.

TAMPA BAY TECH TITANS AT A GLANCE

COACH: John Colbert, fourth season (8-23)

ASSISTANTS: Chris Chapman, Jerrell Cogmon, Eric Floyd, Mark Gemberling, Malawi Hills, Leonard Rush, Tyrone Thomas

COLORS: Navy blue, red and white

STADIUM: Titan Stadium, 6410 Orient Road, Tampa

CLASS: 4A, District 8

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 2000

LAST APPEARANCE: Lost to Riverview 37-0

THE BIG GAME

OCT. 26, PLANT: Revenge games are always good for a few extra fans not to mention some added motivation for the losing team. Revenge games that come late in the season are even more intense. Last year, the Panthers beat the Titans on a last-minute field goal. This time, TBT will try to spoil a Plant home game.

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