We keep our 2013 spring tour going - in our 30 stops in 30 days - with a quick look at Dr. Phillips.
The Panthers look to keep the wheels rolling this fall, after posting a 13-1 mark in 2012, a season that came to a stunning end to the hands of Apopka in the 8A state semifinal.
Although a few key players have left for graduation, all signs point to the Panthers being a top contender in a very tough 8A classification in 2013. With a group of very talented underclassmen stepping into previously veteran-held roles, Dr. Phillips fans should get used to a few new names being called over the loudspeaker this year.
The strength of Dr. Phillips will be the same as always - at the skill positions. Leading the gauntlet on offense will be senior speedster Deionte Gaines, a versatile athlete who can run, line up in the slot or catch the ball out of the backfield.
With good depth at running back - led by seniors Kerry Bernard and Marvin Marshall - the Panthers have three very capable athletes who can break the big play. While Bernard is the "pure" running back of the group and should see a big increase in touches, Marshall's speed and Gaines' versatility give Dr. Phillips a multi-faceted attack that presents plenty of options for coach Rodney Wells.
At wide receiver, senior Roderick Proctor leads the pack after a breakout junior season in 2012. The physical wideout has a number of offers from high division one schools and looks to groom two newcomers who may make an instant impact: Jamari Smith and Alvin Bryant. Both can play offense and defense, but with solid depth at defensive back, these two could more than likely end up at wide receiver and on defense in selective formations out of necessity. In all, the wide receiver group will be talented.
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The big question mark on offense is at quarterback, and a battle has emerged heading into summer workouts. Junior Rudy Norwood won the battle and started for the Panthers in the spring game against Gainesville, showing some inconsistency before getting into his groove and completing a slew of deep passes to Proctor and Gaines. His development, along with the quarterback battle that ensues this summer, will be pivotal for this team to compete in a loaded 8A classification in 2013.
The offensive line should also be a strength despite the loss of a few starters. Senior Brett Selig and junior Colby Meeks headline a deep group that also includes a number of big underclassmen battling for the remaining starting spots.
The defense could also be very good in 2013, and the core strength starts in the backfield and at linebacker.
Seniors Marvin Brown and Davin Pierce lead the defensive back unit after breakout seasons in 2012, with high-caliber juniors Vernon Walker and Antonio Wyatt providing depth. As always with this team, don't be surprised to see skill position players switching between offense and defense. That could especially be the case for Smith and Bryant.
Senior leaders Auggie Amone and Ia Wolfgramm headline a linebacker group that has the potential to be among the best in the state. Watch for the continued development of sophomore-to-be Jonathan Pollock: The class of 2016 linebacker is already gaining considerable interest from division one schools.
Overall, this should be a very competitive Dr. Phillips team. While the Panthers are heavily favored within their district, power programs Manatee, Plant and Fort Pierce Central all share a region with Dr. Phillips and should provide for thrilling November games.