High School Sports

Commentary | Manatee football enjoys good spring; Lang, Jackson still on college radar


Thanks to Paul Mobley and Matt Kissell, Manatee head football coach John Booth can feel comfortable heading into the summer.

He had been concerned about who would replace last season's defensive bulwarks Antonio Henderson and Nashon Smith, who had nearly six years of combined starting experience at defensive back and linebacker, respectively.

"We were hoping they would step in, and they did a great job," Booth said.

Mobley, who returned a fumble 17 yards for a touchdown, worked out at all the secondary positions during spring and played free safety in the spring jamboree against Venice and Lakeland. Kissell was solid at linebacker, particularly against Venice.

Booth doesn't expect to play a jamboree again next year, citing the length of an event that lasted past 11 p.m. Thursday night. Venice and Lakeland played back-to-back halves, while Manatee played Venice and Lakeland in the first and third halves.

The Hurricanes defense was stout in its shutout over Venice, but lost its sharpness after waiting more than an hour to play Lakeland. They also had to play without nose guard Mahlik Mills, who injured his ankle in the first half.

"Sitting around for so long was tough, and it took us a couple of series to settle in and get going, but that is part of dealing with adversity," Booth said. "We were not wrapping up well, but Lakeland has a great running back (Anthony Davis) and receiver (James Robinson) who are pulling in tons of offers."

A.J. Colagiovanni went the distance at quarterback and will be the starter in the fall, but backup Sir Williams will see the field in other ways though he didn't play Thursday.

"The jamboree was going to be an evaluation for A.J., and we wanted to see how he would handle good competition for an entire game. He has earned the starting job and has a good grasp of what we are doing," Booth said. "Sir Williams will back him up, and we will sprinkle him in at various positions whether that be in a wildcat formation or another package. He is athletic enough to run and a threat to throw."

Manatee's offense accounted for more than 400 yards combined in the two halves, and its defense scored two touchdowns.

Kavious Price was nothing short of sensational with his electrifying runs, and Lorenz Allen showed he can switch from receiver to running back and be more than just an adequate replacement for Johnnie Lang.

Lang and defensive end Kwanzi Jackson, both rising seniors, are suspended pending the outcome of a legal matter. Their status for the season should be determined next month, and many major college programs are anxiously waiting.

Jackson has been offered by USF, and Virginia Tech is showing interest. He verbally committed to Tulane, but has expressed a desire to continue looking.

"Virginia Tech (coaches) said they are looking to sign three kids that do what Kwanzi does, and some major BCS schools are high on him," Booth said. "USF offered him last year and have come back in the spring again. Other schools said they are ready to make an offer when they see things clear up. Auburn is very interested in Johnnie. We are confident it's going to work out."

Booth said coaches from 77 colleges visited Manatee during spring practice, and he expects the number to increase to more than 80 next week.

"We are a lot further along offensively than last year, and I like what we did defensively, returning two turnovers for touchdowns," Booth said. "All in all, it was a good spring, and we came out healthy, which is important. I am excited where we are at."

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.