It's been a busy offseason for Dave Marino, but the Palmetto head football coach isn't complaining.
The Tigers finished runner-up in the recent Adidas 7v7 State Tournament to qualify for the Southeast regional in Valdosta, Ga., on July 18.
The best part for Marino is that this is a high school event, unlike the all-star 7v7 tournaments that dot most of the playing fields during the summer.
"Adidas felt it was important to make this a high school tournament with no stringers, and I think it's a good idea. This keeps our guys together and gives them a chance to grow," he said.
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Marino remarked that he couldn't be happier with the way quarterback Jack Allison played at the state tournament in Orlando.
"Jack was outstanding. He was laser sharp," Marino said about his 6-6, 205 quarterback, who has verbally committed to Miami. "He is physically maturing into a man and has gotten a lot stronger. It was a great opportunity to go against some of the big teams in the state, especially Tampa Plant."
Palmetto defeated Plant and Orlando Boone en route to the championship game, which it dropped to Jacksonville Ribault.
Also drawing praise from Marino were defensive backs Thad Johnson, Trae Thompskin and Maka Matelau.
"Maka and Thad had three picks each. Trae covered everyone's number one receiver and did a great job," the coach said.
Marino likes the benefits you can draw from 7v7, but says you have to careful in assessing your players. Quarterbacks have four seconds to throw the ball before they get whistled for what is considered a sack. But it's not like a defensive linemen bearing down your throat in a real game.
"It provides a culture of competitiveness and a great opportunity for our kids to compete," Marino said. "The difference is that this is touch, but it helps with decision making and throwing the ball with accuracy and defending the pass. It can give you a false sense of security, but it factors into how it translates onto the real game and we are giving our receivers and defensive backs a chance to compete."
The next generation
Ray Woodie III and Willie Taggart Jr. might have flown under the radar in the recent IMG 7v7 tourney, but the two youngsters with famous dads appear to be budding stars. They played for Team Florida's 15 & under squad.
Woodie will be a freshman at Carrollwood Day School, and rumor is that he will be the guy lacing 'em up at quarterback for the varsity squad. And that's not dad talking -- Jon Gruden is the quarterbacks coach for the team and he knows a thing or two about playing the position.
His father Woodie was a standout linebacker at Palmetto, and put some time in the Canadian Football League. He can't explain how his son evolved into a quarterback, except to note he is already six-feet tall and weighs in at 170 pounds. He also has a keen understanding of the game thanks to his dad.
"I don't know what he is going to be, but people are saying he is a natural for quarterback. I am sure he will get some good coaching from coach Gruden," the elder Woodie says.
Taggart Jr. might also be taking a different path than his dad, who quarterbacked Manatee to a state football title and is currently the head coach at USF.
The younger Taggart just finished seventh grade at Liberty Middle School in Tampa, and is nearly six-feet tall -- so in the not too distant future he will be looking down at pops.
They say little Taggart is more athletic than his father, which is impressive considering the way Willie Sr. ran himself into the record books at Western Kentucky.
But the kicker is, right now, Little Willie loves the game of basketball and is an exceptional talent.
Congrats are in order for Willie Sr. and his wife, Taneshia, who gave birth to a girl named Morgan on Thursday.