Posted: 6:27 pm Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Kelvin Taylor aside, Glades Day returns a solid defense 

By Matt Porter

BELLE GLADE — Much to the dismay of anyone who wanted to see him for the first time, Glades Day’s Kelvin Taylor sat out Thursday, the first day of contact drills.

Coach Pete Walker said Taylor, recovering from a torn right meniscus, was cleared by team trainers to practice. However, Taylor couldn’t get a mandatory physical until he had doctor’s clearance on his knee.

Taylor received clearance on the knee Wednesday, and took a physical — which he passed — as the Gators were practicing that afternoon.

“We’ll monitor him, we’ll ease him along. He’s out of football shape,” said Walker. “He hasn’t really been able to practice. Monday we start two-a-days, so I’ll make him practice on offense.”

Rightfully so, Taylor will receive the lion’s share of attention on Gator Blvd. this fall, but there’s more to see here.

The Gators return 8 starters on defense, led by cornerbacks J.T. Thornton and Eaton Spence.

Thornton, No. 24 on the Big Board, stands 6-foot and hits harder than his 165 pounds should allow. He recently committed to Illinois.

Spence, who has picked up offers from Florida International, Marshall, Western Michigan, Western Kentucky and Buffalo,

“We have two Division 1 corners,” said Walker. “Both of those guys are lock-down.”

Walker also expects contributions from from defensive linemen Zach Simmons and Tyler Lecroy — “They don’t get enough said about them. They’re both relentless blockers” — and senior defensive tackle Todd Jackowitz, an undersized, tough blocker who will start at fullback.

The offense will be a strong suit, said Walker.

“We feel good at tailback, of course,” he said. “Our quarterback [Tanner Redish, who started as last year as a sophomore] is back, and we have three starting linemen back. At tight end, we feel like we’re going to be better with Jose Penton.”

At wideout, the Gators lost Davonte Allen, No. 17 on the Big Board, to Glades Central, but they picked up a replacement: transfer Stephen Williams, from Palm Beach Central. The 6-foot-4 senior gives quarterback Tanner Redish a deep option that will help offset the loss of Allen.

“He’s got the length,” said Walker. “If the ball’s in the air anywhere near him, he goes up and gets it.”

The Gators open by hosting Twiggs County (Georgia) on Aug. 28, a game that will count in the standings.