LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Shawn Trent will begin his 10th season as Lakewood Ranch's head football coach in the fall.
He is hoping it will be his best season leading the Mustangs.
The reason for optimism? The Mustangs have nearly everybody back from last season, including quarterback Chad Rex, who is going into his third year a starter.
"All the running backs are back. The receivers are back, and the offensive line is back," Trent said. "The last three games last season we started four sophomores and a freshman on the offensive line. We have to replace three defensive linemen, but we rotated two D-lines most of last season so those kids played a lot."
Rex is a dual-threat quarterback, and the offensive line needs to give him some time to use his legs and arm. He said he weighed about 130 pounds as a sophomore.
The six-foot, 175-pound Rex has not missed a game in four years. He started on the JV team as a freshman and was the varsity starter his sophomore and junior years.
"It was fun, but when I got hit around it wasn't fun," Rex said. "Things are going well this spring. My line is ... getting bigger and stronger. I shouldn't have played (varsity) as a sophomore. I was way too small."
The running backs are expected to be Jamie Jeffcoat and Davion Thomas.
Cameron Pearcey, the Mustangs' top receiver last year, has decided not to play football and concentrate on baseball. But the Mustangs have two good receivers in returnees Brandon Hadley and Trevor Losada, who started every game last season.
"I feel good about the season. I am more mature and am making better decisions," Rex said. "I am a lot faster, stronger, more mobile and understand the offense. This spring, I am trying to get the running game smooth because we may be more of a running team because our backs are bigger. I want to get to the playoffs and hopefully we can accomplish that."
Rex isn't the only to get bigger and stronger. Senior running back Justin Fischer is 5-11, 185 pounds. Last season, he was 5-9, 170 pounds.
"I am a lot stronger, and we are progressing real fast," Fischer said. "We got everybody back on offense except our tight end. It helps a lot to be a veteran team. We know how to work."
Heading the Mustangs defense will be cornerback Craig Baine and linebacker Wanley Desire.
Linebackers Allen Remedore and Tyree Rome are out of spring practice because of injuries.
"Our starting 22 is good, but it's still going to come down to injuries for us," Trent said. "With teams we are going to play, we know we are going to have injuries. It's one of those things you cross your fingers and hope for the best."
The only rebuilding job for the Mustangs is on the defensive line, which lost three starters.