Posted: 4:30 pm Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
By Jeff Greer
Note: Welcome to the PBGametime 2011 Spring Football Tour. During our three-week tour, we visit area teams, meet some of the top players and answer the most pressing questions. Our next stop is Glades Central, where new coach Roosevelt Blackmon and new quarterback Tanner Redish must find the right chemistry with Glades Central’s talented returnees.
Moments after the Class 2A state championship game in December, Glades Central linebacker/running back Dominique Gibson stood in line with his teammates as they waited to receive their second-place silver medals. His face a still frame of shock, the junior couldn’t believe his team had lost a heartbreaking 14-13 decision to Cocoa — the second loss to the same opponent in consecutive state-title games.
Six months later, the frame’s changed but the memories haven’t faded. Glades Central has a new coach in Roosevelt Blackmon, who started as a water boy at Glades Central and made his way to the NFL. And the Raiders have a new quarterback in Tanner Redish, a transfer from Glades Day. While those are significant changes from the 2010 Glades Central, the goal is the same: Win a state title.
They’d like to bury some of those bad December feelings.
“You don’t want the feeling you had last year,” Blackmon said. “I preach to (Glades Central’s rising seniors) every day about showing leadership, being a leader for the team, showing the young guys the way. That feeling last December didn’t sit well coming off the field.”
In his seniors, assets. Blackmon takes over a team loaded with rising senior talent. Gibson is the heart and soul of a lightning-fast defense that returns everyone but the defensive line. Rising senior linebacker Jatavis Brown is a Division I prospect who hits hard and reads plays even better. Another senior-to-be linebacker, Don’Kevious Johnson, has continuously improved over the past year to make his presence felt in the linebacking corps.
“We’re gonna be physical and we’re gonna play fast,” Blackmon said.
In the secondary, Crevon LeBlanc is a ballhawk who competes with supremely talented receiver Jaime Wilson for the best hands on the team. Junior-to-be corner Will Likely is fast, smart and possesses similar ball skills to LeBlanc.
Transfer Leon King, who came over from Pahokee, has impressed the Raiders’ coaching staff at safety. And Blackmon blurted out David Bailey when asked if any player in particular is expected to take a major step forward in the fall.
As for the defensive line, Glades Central is confident it can find players to replace Marshall-bound defensive end Robert Way and talented grads Purvis Nixon and Delbert Clarke. They won’t be easy to follow, but the sheer speed of the new replacements should create plenty of space for Brown and company to get into the backfield.
When asked how good the defense can be in 2011, Gibson quipped, “I don’t like to brag. You’ll see for yourself.”
Cooking with Baker. Rising junior running back Aaron Baker has Blackmon’s attention. As a sophomore in 2010, Baker emerged late in the season as a punishing back for the Raiders. He ran for 700 yards and nine touchdowns. Baker (5-11, 200) is a bruiser with solid balance. He’s tough to tackle, and the coaches at Glades Central believe he’s in for a big year. One even estimated “at least 1,200 yards” for the youngster.
He’ll be paired with Likely, a scatback type who has blazing speed paired with elusiveness, and Gibson, who runs downhill and looks for contact. Those three rushing options may force Blackmon to shade more toward a run-first offense.
Redish in the spotlight. Redish is battling last year’s backup Greg Davis for the starting job at Glades Central, but all signs point to Redish landing the gig in August. The former Glades Day signal caller has two state titles under his belt, but the presence of record-breaking running back Kelvin Taylor meant that Redish rarely threw more than 10-15 passes a game, if that.
At Glades Central, the quarterback is the man. In the fall, whoever the quarterback is will have Wilson, whose speed, hands and route-running make him the best pure wide receiver in the area. LeBlanc and Likely will also line up in the slot. The running game will create more space for the receivers behind the linebackers, a terrifying idea if you’re an opposing coach. But for now, the main goal is getting Redish on the same page as the receivers. He isn’t used to the speed of Glades Central yet, and it’ll take him the summer to get there. Glades Central can’t afford for that acclimation to take any longer than that.
“Tanner’s a good quarterback,” Gibson said. “He isn’t used to the speed, but he’ll be all right.”
Outlook: As soon as Glades Central lost in last year’s Class 2A title game, the prevailing thought was that the Raiders had an even better team returning. Former coach Jessie Hester even said recently he thought that the group of rising seniors would be his best team yet. He and his staff even planned for the fourth year of his tenure as their title-winning year.
The defense will be as good, if not better, than last year’s group. The running game will keep improving as long as Baker continues his progress. As strange as it sounds for a Glades Central team, the passing game may be the biggest question.
The bottom line is simple: Glades Central has a fantastic shot at winning the seventh state championship in school history. It all comes down to jelling with Blackmon’s new coaching style and getting Redish in tune with his receivers.