There is a lot on the shoulders of James Thomas this spring.
The Southeast football program is undergoing a big makeover following the retirement of legendary head coach Paul Maechtle, who roamed the sidelines for 33 years.
There is a new head coach in John Warren and a new offense that Thomas is expected to run. He began last season as a defensive back, but wound up the starting quarterback because he was the best person for the job.
So how does Thomas feel about the extra load?
"I love it," the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder says.
Being "the guy" was always a goal for Thomas, and he is embracing his new duties, regardless of how daunting they may appear.
"There is a lot on my shoulders and I have a lot of responsibilities, but I enjoy having that. I want the responsibility," Thomas said. "I have a lot more confidence this year and like going into the season as the guy.'"
Without giving away any secrets, Thomas said the offense will have some different wrinkles with perhaps more passing. He has faith in Warren, and the coach has no qualms about giving him the keys to the offense.
"I remember James as a sophomore when I was here as an assistant coach. I wasn't sure quarterback was his forte, but he has shown great leadership and understands what we need to get done," Warren said. "He is a dual-threat guy. We are going to win with his legs and his arms. We are pretty deep at running back and want him to read defenses and make decisions."
Warren also needs to find a replacement for running
back Courtney Allen, who finished his career as the second-leading rusher in Manatee County history.
The Seminoles appear to have quality depth at the position with Kevin Johnson and Qion Burch. There weren't many carries available last year outside of Allen, but Johnson was the second-leading rusher with 94 yards on 19 attempts.
Thomas has a good arm, but the Noles lost their top five receivers. They combined to catch all nine touchdown passes last year.
Southeast suffered a rare losing season in 2013, mainly because of a young defense that had problems tackling. There could be 10 starters returning on defense in the fall if certain players take care of their academics.
"Our guys have a year under their belt and got real bloody last year," defensive coordinator Brian McKnight said. "We've been working on tackling this spring because we didn't do that very well last year and will face a lot of big running backs. I am encouraged about the work the guys put into the weight room. We are stronger and better. We will look the part; now we have to play the part."
Dyron Williams is the Noles' standout on defense. He played linebacker last year and will likely play strong safety or wherever he is needed.
"I prefer linebacker because I like to be closer to the action and hit people," the 5-9, 212-pound Williams said. "The main goal for spring has been tackling. We need to get it down pat when the season starts, but we have a lot of good athletes going both ways."
Defensive end Ryan Eberly (6-0, 205) is the only sure thing on the defensive line that hasn't had all its players because some are academically ineligible.
The linebacking corps is strong with DJ Joyner and Derrick Young and Williams is expected to see some time there. At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds Dmitry Smith is solid at either safety spot. The likely starters at cornerback are Daniel Billy and Marquis Houston.
"The number one goal for us this spring is to develop depth," Warren said. "We've got to get deeper or we won't survive. We've got to get some of our younger kids coached up, and we need to have some of our better athletes to play both ways."