BRADENTON -- The first day of spring football practice was notable for two coaching legends who were not there.
Manatee High head coach John Kinnan is on medical leave for the entire spring practice and hopes to return for the regular season.
Paul Maechtle, who put the Southeast High program on the map during his illustrious 33 years as head coach, has retired.
It was definitely a different kind of day for local football fans.
With a veteran coaching staff at Manatee, the change seemed less pronounced. Hurricanes defensive coordinator Jim Phelan is in charge of practice and will be the acting head coach during the spring game against Haines City.
There were 87 varsity players and 42 from the JV team out for Manatee's practice, which was about normal.
"I thought things went good. We did our job. Most of us have been here twenty years, so things will roll along," Phelan said. "The only thing he told us was do what you do. We've got to replace six starters on defense and that's what I am concentrating on. I am trying to find defensive ends because we lost four."
Quarterbacks coach Chris Conboy is expected to call the plays during the spring games, but says the offense is keeping things basic as the young kids learn the system.
"We are using Joe's system and his organization is already in place, so everything kind of ran pretty smooth. We know what his expectations are and that's what we keep doing,"Conboy said.
A biggest chore for Conboy is finding a quarterback.
Josh Myer, last year's starting signal caller, is currently not allowed to play because of pending legal charges against him. His status for next season is uncertain.
Conboy spent the first day of practice looking at his candidates and proclaimed the job wide-open.
Takings snaps Wednesday were Karim Khaybullin, who started for the Canes' undefeated JV team last season as a sophomore, and freshmen Augusto Colagivanni and Juwan Jenkins.
"Obviously we are looking for a quarterback," Conboy said. "Karim is a good sized kid at 6-1, 190 and has gotten a lot faster and stronger since last season. In our offense the biggest thing is making the right decisions. The two freshman quarterbacks split time last year. We are looking at all of them right now and some others."
Another possibility at quarterback is Kavious Price, who didn't practice because he's with the track team, but coaches prefer to use him at receiver. To make things a little more difficult for whoever is under center, Manatee lost its entire offensive line.
The Canes also lost leading rusher Travon Walters. Returning is Johnny Lang, who had 781 rushing yards last season and Octavious James, who rushed for more than 13 yards a carry. Both will be juniors.
"We are very confident at running back and we have Kelvin McKnight, our leading receiver from last season," Conboy said. "We have enough guys at the skill positions so that when we get settled at quarterback and find some offensive linemen, we will be alright. For the spring we are just going to run our base stuff and let these young guys go."
Southeast head coach John Warren came into his first practice with the mind set that he is not replacing Maechtle, but trying to build off what he accomplished. The 36-year-old coach estimated he had 60-plus kids out for varsity practice.
"I don't think anybody really wants to replace a legend, but I took it as we are not starting over. We are not building from scratch," Warren said. "We have top notch facilities and the kids already know how to win. We don't have to teach them how to win. Coach Maechtle earned his accolades for a good reason. You can't replace a guy like that, but you can build on it."
There are no new members on his staff, but Warren said he expects to bring in some additional coaches during the summer. Brian McKnight remains the defensive coordinator and Warren will be the offensive coordinator, a job Maechtle held during the last few years.
The Seminoles are set at quarterback with returning starter James Thomas.
"You can immediately tell his game knowledge is second to none and he is another reason we don't have to rebuild," Warren said. "We are real young and he is going to be a senior who has a really good grip on things."
Warren is looking to replace Courtney Allen, a four year starter, who finished his career as the second leading rusher in Manatee County history. He sees more of a backfield by committee approach this season.
"One thing you might see different is that we are going to ask more of our kids to go both ways because they have to. We don't have the 1,800-2,200 kids we used to have here," Warren said. "Our talent is spread a little more thin, but the talent we have can win us some football games. We started two sophomores last year on the offensive line and those guys are back."
D.J. Joiner and Dryon Williams lead a defense that struggled at the beginning of last season, but show improvement. Williams could see time at running back.
"Coach Maechtle wants nothing but the best for us, and anything I ask him, he goes out of his way to make sure I get an answer," Warren said.