By Mark Saavedra/Contributing Writer
The Football team suited up for the first time since the tough 28-3 loss in the Gasparilla Bowl. Alex McGough, Treyvon Williams and Anthony Wint are just a few of the team’s veterans who have graduated.
With positions to be filled, the team has a lot of questions to answer.
Sage Lewis, who formerly played outside linebacker for the Panthers, moved to middle linebacker. Lewis has been the heart of this defense and now looks to have a role as the leader of this young group.
Former defensive lineman Fermin Silva moved from the defensive line to outside linebacker. When Lewis found out about the move, he was ecstatic.
“We already got that connection off the field,” said Lewis. “He’s playing next to me now so I’m just teaching him some small things and we can both get that work in. We’re hungry.”
Defensive Coordinator Brent Guy was surprised by Silva’s ability to adjust to the linebacker position. Guy said Silva’s ability to drop back and pick up receivers, a skill that was thought to be Silva’s weakness when the move was first made. With Lewis’ leadership role will allow Silva to grow in his new position.
When asked about unfamiliar faces rising to the occasion, Guy mentioned Jordan Woods. A sophomore who’s making the move from an outside pass rusher to an interior rusher.
Along with Woods, opposing teams may need to be weary of the Dame Brothers. Richard and Rishard Dame are a freshman defensive back duo from Booker T. Washington who have been hustling this offseason.
Another key for this defense is going to be the return of veteran Isaiah “Ike” Brown. The junior was injured last season but is expected to bring back the tough press of Panthers corners.
The strength of this team lies in its running backs, featuring: Shawndarrius Phillips, Anthony Jones, D’Vonte Price and Napoleon Maxwell. Both Guy and Phillips said that this year the team is faster and is working on their weaknesses.
“We built a family, and in a family you know what your brother can and cannot do. You know when your brother needs you and how to help him,” Phillips said.
After an impressive jump to an 8-5 record and a bowl appearance, the Panthers are on the rise. Last year was somewhat of a rebuild for the team. Now, the veterans on the team are working to coach the young guys into the system.
With a top 75 recruitment class joining the team in the Fall, this upcoming season could be a potential culture-setting year.