NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM
Greg Reaves, sr., linebacker: Reaves started the final two games of last season at free safety after Willie Smith suffered a knee injury during the Class 7A-Region 3 semifinals against Venice. Now Reaves, who has picked up a Division I-AA scholarship offer from Albany, will move to inside linebacker.
It's a big assignment, considering linebacking play was one of Manatee's bigger weaknesses last season.
"He's very physical. We feel we certainly upgraded at the linebacker position," Kinnan said, who's up to 200 pounds. "He's long, very smart, has a high (grade-point average)...I think he'll get more offers as the season progresses."
The 6-foot-3 Reaves had 38 tackles in limited playing time last season, including 12 against Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas in the state semifinal.
Now he is being asked to shore up a position that is the Hurricanes' biggest need, especially since Manatee returns just one guy, senior Demarcus Christmas, from a line that was considered the country's best last season.
So far, so good, said Kinnan.
"I've been very impressed," he said of Reaves.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Josh Meyer, jr., quarterback: He's not exactly new to the roster, as he served as one of Cord Sandberg's backups last year. But Meyer is a pivotal new piece in the starting lineup and replaces Sandberg, a two-time Class 7A player of the year and one of the most prolific QBs in Manatee County history. Meyer ran for 133 yards in the spring game against Tallahassee Lincoln and will have plenty of quality WRs (Marquel Hines and Brodrick Yancy), as well as the area's top offensive line, at his disposal.
DEEP AT: Running back: Trevon Walters, a senior, is back after totaling more than 1,500 yards of offense and 20 touchdowns. When he went down in the playoffs with an ankle injury, Johnnie Lang (330 total yards, five touchdowns) was very impressive as a freshman.
THIN AT: Quarterback: Josh Meyer played well in the spring game, but his top backup is Brodrick Yancy, one of the team's top receivers. That means the Canes will take a hit at two spots should Yancy have to line up under center. Chase Richardson, Meyer's backup in the spring, decided not to play this year.
Herald's forecast, 8-2, playoff berth: New classification, new opponents, new faces - it's a transitional year for the Hurricanes. But there is more than enough talent on both sides of the ball for Manatee to win another district title and craft a long run through the playoffs.
Head coach: Joe Kinnan, 29th season, 279-71
BY THE NUMBERS:
0: Chances of Manatee meeting Aquinas in the playoffs this year - the Hurricanes were bumped to Class 8A while the Raiders remained in 7A. The teams have met five times in the state semifinals since 2005.
.797: Coach Joe Kinnan's winning percentage.
2: Offensive lineman who have made Division I commitments -- Jake Stickler (Georgia Tech) and Michael Galati (USF).
9/1 at Gilman, Md.#
9/13 FRIENDSHIP COLLEGIATE ACADEMY (MD.)
9/20 at Sarasota
10/11 at Palmetto
10/18 at St. Petersburg*
10/25 UNIVERSITY SCHOOL
11/1 PALM HARBOR UNIVERSITY*
Games start at 7:30 p.m., unless noted
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
*-Class 8A-District 7 game
Game to watch: Oct. 4 vs. Riverview: Why? Because the longtime rivals are district opponents again, and Kinnan's reasoning for scheduling tough non-district foes is steel his Canes for games such as this.
9/2 MIRAMAR W, 41-6
9/7 at Riverview W, 49-7
9/14 MIAMI CENTRAL W, 44-34
9/28 at Southeast W, 52-13
10/5 at Braden River W, 56-0
10/12 WESTON CYPRESS BAY W, 42-20
10/19 at Venice W, 56-27
10/26 PALMETTO W, 62-0
1 1/2 SARASOTA W, 51-9
11/9 LAKEWOOD RANCH W, 49-6
11/16 NORTHEAST W, 65-12
1 1/23 VENICE W, 56-7
11/30 at Fort Pierce Central W, 51-0
CLASS 7A STATE SEMIFINAL
12/7 at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas L, 18-35