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May 26, 2013

Stop 26: Plant looks to return to glory

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We continue our whirlwind tour of the state - stopping in 30 places over 30 days - with a quick visit to Tampa Plant

TAMPA -- With six starters back on offense - five on the offensive line - the Plant Panthers look to provide QB Colby Brown with plenty of time to find his plethora of receivers.

"'He's (Brown) got great maturation process. The biggest thing for him is being able to take all the drills that we've done," Plant head coach Robert Weiner said of his QB. "His arm has gotten so much stronger. he's getting better about moving himself around the pocket and make those difficult throws."

Protecting Brown are seniors Ray Raulerson and Richard Bush - and sophomore Jake Fruhmorgen - just to name three of the five starters back.

"There are a couple of guys that are kind of game-breakers on each side of the ball," Weiner said. "We really have some explosive guys on both offense and defense."

Two of those game-breakers at slot receiver is Alex Jackson - who missed most of 2012 - and Jordan Reed. Reed played corner and moved to offense, where Weiner expects big things.

Add to that list WR/DB Austin Hudson - (6-2, 185). A player Weiner said will 'sneak up on you if you're not careful.'

He will be one of the people that makes an impact and will get noticed," said Weiner. "He has 4.4 speed and a 40 inch vertical leap."

One of the biggest factors of any team is it's 'quiet leader' and Plant has that in Cam Winter

"He's a true Plant Panther," Weiner said. "He's got attitude when you need it and a kid that you love to have represent your program as well."

Defensively, the Panthers return five starters - and LB Andrew Beck,(verbally committed to Texas) as well as DB Mazzi Wilkins - anchor the defense.

"He (Beck) led the team in tackles, He's a way different athlete right now than he was on film last year," Weiner said. "He's brought his 40 time down significantly and has really redefined his body."

Joining Beck as a LB (Will) is Hunter Wertz.

The secondary will feature Wilkins and company - and that makes Weiner smile.

"The truth of the matter is that we have three guys back that got a lot of playing time," Weiner said. "Bernard Rogers will likely move to safety. Derrick Baity (rising junior) - will also play a lot."

Up front the Panthers will be led by DT Kyle Henderson.

"He has kind of grown into the position and he's learning how to play the position the way it needs to be played," said Weiner. "He's drawing a lot of double-teams and that opens up some holes. Plant did not finish where the Panthers are accustomed to finishing. After playing in four state championship games over a five year period, the Panthers bowed out in the second round to Dr. Phillips.

"I think that our team came together really as a team after that loss," Weiner said. "They've been really driven and focused on those goals since then."

"For any team that takes pride in its success like we do, it becomes part of the fuel to help us get to those goals. it helps when we're not quite as motivated and need that boost to get us ready."

The Panthers concluded spring with a win over Tampa Robinson - and RB Michael Duclos.

"It was a solid win, we saw enough flashes to be enticed to thinking that we have a chance to be pretty good," Weiner said. "It's a kind of spring game that the mistakes that you make are correctable. Not that they are inherent to your team or your scheme."

Plant opens the season with a kickoff classic against 5A defending champion Tallahassee Godby and is working on a national game for the opening week.

Inauspiciously missing from the Panthers' schedule this year - traditional rivals.

"No Armwood, no Jefferson, no Jesuit, no Hillsborough," Weiner said. "They are all in a nine-team district. I hate that we can't face our traditional rivals - those are some great games."


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