Posted: 12:49 pm Monday, May 3rd, 2010
By Jason Lieser
The shiny white banner commemorating Jupiter Christian’s 2007 and ’08 state titles has never seemed so irrelevant. Other than that sign, which hangs near the Eagles’ practice field, there are few traces remaining from their dominant run.
The two most important players of that era — running back and linebacker Will Powers (four-year starter) and quarterback Marshyl Rothman (three years) — are gone. Danny Meyer and Westin Pedersen were two-way, two-year starters who graduated as well. This team looked entirely different as it began the 2010 season Saturday.
“There’s definitely a changing of the guard,” coach Bill Powers said. “We have four or five kids that were important role players last year that should hopefully step up for us, but we’ve got some young kids.
“We’re going to go back to really stressing the chip on the shoulder and no one thinks you’re any good. It was harder to do that last year. That’s always been a big part of our program, the no respect. We’ve started to get some respect — not from everyone, but from some people — and that makes you a little bit softer. We’re back in more of an underdog role and I like that better.”
Jupiter Christian went 9-3 last season (36-4 over the past three) and lost to Glades Day in the Class 1B regional final. The Eagles rallied from a 31-9 deficit in the third quarter to force overtime, but lost 45-44 on a two-point conversion run by Kelvin Taylor.
Jupiter Christian has a spring jamboree May 15 with Benjamin and Dade Christian, followed by an intrasquad scrimmage May 22. Here are a few areas to pay attention to this spring:
Keddy Bostic, a junior-to-be, steps in to replace Rothman this spring. Bostic is a different type of quarterback than Rothman, but that’s not necessarily bad. At 6-2 1/2, 178, Bostic is more of a conventional quarterback than Rothman was. He lacks Rothman’s arm strength and mobility, but he still is young and he is fast enough (runs 4.72 in the 40-yard dash and started at safety last year) to be a threat as a runner.
Rothman had a gift for improvisation and could scramble around the backfield until he saw a running lane. Bostic is more likely to follow his blocks and stay within the parameters of the plan.
“I think he’ll be more of a typical, drop-back quarterback — who can run the ball pretty good,” Powers said of Bostic. “Marshyl was a wide receiver and running back in a quarterback’s body and could throw the ball. Keddy’s not that. Keddy’s almost 6-foot-3. By the time he’s a senior, he could be 6-4, close to 200 pounds.
“As of right now, he doesn’t have the arm strength that Marshyl had. Very few kids can put the ball on the money on the run the way Marshyl did. I don’t know if Keddy’s going to be able to throw the ball on the run like Marshyl, but back in the pocket, he’ll throw the ball good.”
One issue the staff is working on with Bostic is his throwing motion. It is somewhat stilted and he does not bring his arm swing back far enough to maximize velocity in his passes (kind of an anti-Tebow motion).
But the good thing is that he realizes it and basically has three months to tweak it.
“I’ve been working all spring on my mechanics,” Bostic said. “I have a little hitch in my throw and I’m trying to get rid of that. I’m not using my whole body to throw it.”
Powers added, “This is when we’re going to get comfortable with how he throws the football. It’ll probably be a mix of how he’s doing it now and how we want it to be.”
His throwing motion is not ideal, but one benefit of it is his quick release. Given the nature of Jupiter Christian’s passing offense, which thrives on screens and other quick throws, Bostic’s mechanics probably won’t hurt him much.
When he worked on Jupiter Christian’s run plays Saturday, particularly the jet sweep that has been crucial to the Eagles’ offense, Bostic looked like he was already in sync for the season. His timing on the snap, sending a runner in motion and making the handoff was exceptional. He also looked good running the option, which will probably be more prevalent in Jupiter Christian’s play-calling than it was last season.
Overall, he looks good for a player who has only thrown six varsity passes in his career.
“I think he’s a little bit ahead,” Powers said. “He works really, really hard. He goes to a lot of camp. He seems to be a leader with the kids. We’re really happy with where he is right now.”
Look for the Eagles to ease Bostic into his first season as the starter by running the ball 60-65 percent of the time, especially early in the year.
Trenard Wilson, another junior-to-be, has an opportunity to compete for the starting spot, too, but it is hard to envision him overtaking Bostic.
Trey Pendergrass is going to have a new role this year as Jupiter Christian’s primary running back. Last season, the Eagles leaned on Will Powers to runthrough the line and tried to get Pendergrass carries where he could create on the outside. In his upcoming senior year, Pendergrass is expected to take over.
He runs the 40 in the low 4.4s and is one of the area’s best ball carriers when he has space, but Pendergrass (5-7, 155) has to prove he can withstand the beating of running between the tackles.
“He’s little, but I’m not worried about his toughness or his endurance,” Bill Powers said.
The Eagles also plan to use offensive lineman Matt Tyson out of the backfield.
Depth chart: The offensive line looks strong, but this team needs linebackers. Jupiter Christian returns three starters from last year’s offensive line and adds Ray Jones (6-3, 230). The line should be better than last year, which will take some heat off Bostic and Pendergrass. On defense, Powers and his staff hope to use the spring session to solidify the linebacker corps. The Eagles typically play a 3-5 defense and need two or three linebackers to make big strides and take starting jobs.
Josh Talbott could be an emerging college prospect. Wide receiver and cornerback Josh Gamble has changed his name to Josh Talbott. This could be atremendous year for him on the field and in terms of recruiting. Talbott (6-0, 185) showed glimpses of talent (he had six catches for 60 yards in a loss to Charlotte Christian), but had yet to master the playbook and the nuances of his position. He was skilled, but timid. Powers said Talbott has more confidence this year and has improved significantly since the end of the ’09 season.
“Josh is a total stud,” Powers said. “He’s a D-I kid that no one knows about. I’d be really surprised if he doesn’t get an offer. He has the measurables that colleges are looking for. He’s a good cover guy and a good receiver. And he’s a really good blocker for a receiver.”
His 40-yard dash time is in the mid 4.5s and could drop by the time the season starts.
This team’s biggest problem resides 60 miles to the southwest. Last year’s playoff game seemed to signal a shift in power from Jupiter Christian to Glades Day. Jupiter Christian was the more experienced, more accomplished of the two, but the Gators won and went on to capture a state championship.
Coming into this season, Glades Day is the clear frontrunner in District 7-1B and is going to be in the hunt for another title.
“Absolutely, on paper, they look a little bit better than us,” Powers said. “They’re sitting on top right now. They should be the favorite.”
Jupiter Christian and Glades Day open the season against each other and should meet in the playoffs again in November.