Senior Talent Has Union County Thinking 2A Title

Senior talent is plentiful for the Union County Tigers who are expected to make a run deep into the Class 2A playoffs in 2005. The Tigers have a veteran offensive line that will be blocking for one of the state's most frightening offensive weapons, and on defense, there is size, speed and a nasty attitude.

Leading the way on offense is all-state running back CJ Spiller, a long touchdown run just looking for a place to happen. The 5-11, 185-pound Spiller, profiled last week, will be one of the top five recruited players at any position in the state.

"CJ's skills speak for themselves," said Tigers Head Coach Buddy Nobles. "The one thing he believes in doing is getting north and south right now. He has the quickness to get it done early on but has the speed to go the distance. He has gotten really strong in the weight room and has gotten to be a really tough runner. He will turn up and put his shoulders down for contact. He averaged 11.6 yards a carry."

When not blocking for Spiller, Tigers 6-2, 215 pound tight end Kasey Nobles can get down the field and stretch the defense. He's got the kind of all-around abilities that you look for in a tight end.

"He knows right where to get open," said the coach, who just happens to be the proud dad of the star tight end. "He has been playing football since he was seven years old. He can stretch the defense and does well running the ball after he catches it. He has a knack for making the simple and the big plays. Kasey is always going to block for his teammates."

Among the bevy of talented seniors on defense for the Union County Tigers is tackle Steven Baggett. The 6-2, 300-pound Baggett is a force in the middle and relies on his size and quickness to get by his man. He brings back memories in these parts of another huge defensive tackle who became an All-America at Florida, Gerard "Big Money" Warren.

Baggett understands his role on the defense and knows what he brings to the table.

"My coach says I am pretty fast for a big guy," Baggett said. "I am pretty knowledgeable about the game and can see what is going on and I work hard."

According to Coach Nobles, "Baggett has an extremely high motor for a big man. He is also very easy to coach."

Baggett joins his teammates in thinking they will have a big year in 2005.

"We lost a few seniors, but we have plenty of people to replace them, Baggett said. "We are going to keep working hard and try and make it to state this year."

Baggett is a good student. He told Gator Country he just wants to play football and defensive tackle in college wherever that may be.

"It doesn't matter where I go as long as I go," Baggett said. "I am getting lots of letters from places like Indiana, Duke, Alabama, USF some like that."

Unlike a number of his teammates who favored Florida State when they were growing up, Baggett has a fondness for another school a little closer to Lake Butler.

"The University of Florida, no doubt," he said. "Gerard Warren when he played at UF. He is one of my idols."

Joining Baggett on the defensive line will be end Willie Oliver. Oliver joined the Tigers just last season and Coach Nobles was very thankful for his arrival.

"Willie is the one I call my prayer warrior;" Noble said. "I prayed for a defensive end last year and he checked in, in June. He is quick as a cat. He is getting stronger and is busting his butt in the weight room. He uses his hands well."

The linebacker position looks to be really strong with a couple of seniors drawing attention from college coaches. At the top of that list is 6-3, 215-pound outside linebacker Kevin Alexander. If that name sounds familiar it's because he's the younger brother of Bennie Alexander, who starred in the defensive backfield at the University of Florida. Coach Nobles gives high marks for is star linebacker and plans on utilizing his athletic skills on both sides of the ball this year.

"He is a great kid," Nobles said. "We are going to play him some at wing back and at wide receiver. He can catch the ball. [On defense] he can cover and he can hit. He has great explosion. He has arms of a seven-footer. Our outside linebacker is like a hybrid strong safety/defensive end and he can play up on the line or he can play back in coverage. He uses his arms well and keeps his leverage."

Brendan Odom will be a senior outside linebacker for the Tigers. The 6-2, 200-pound speedster will bring the wood for the stout Union County defense. Coach Nobles likes the size and athleticism of his outside linebacker.

"Last year was his first at playing outside linebacker," Nobles said. "He is a big time hitter and he covers well. He has the wing span of someone much taller than he is."

"I think I bring good effort," Odom told Gator Country. "I am looking to be a leader on the field. I have pretty good speed and I like to hit."

His favorite college player is just 30 miles down the road at the University of Florida.

"My favorite player is probably Earl Everett from the Gators," he said. "He just caught my eye as a player." v Still, like most of the other Union County players I talked to, Odom grew up an FSU fan.

Odom says he's in good shape academically and he's getting attention in the form of letters from schools such as Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Liberty, and Utah. Right now he isn't being picky about his choices. "I am willing to go wherever I can play," he said.

Chris Perry is a hard hitting cornerback for the Tigers. The 5-11, 170-pound Perry is likely to find a home somewhere else in the secondary at the next level.

"Chris is going to be a free safety in college but he plays cornerback for us," Coach Nobles said.

Like his senior teammates, Perry has great expectations for a banner year in 2005.

"Expectations are real high," Perry said. "We have been coming up short every year and that isn't good, so I think we can go all the way. We have to prove a point and show everyone that we are that good."

The youngest of three boys who all played sports, Perry boasts letters of interest from schools like Maryland, Iowa, Florida, Indiana and a few more.

Perry says that distance won't be a factor in his decision, but his religious convictions will.

"I am a Christian and pray a lot," Perry said. "I will go to God and see where he leads me."

Perry told Gator Country he models his game after players like Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson. Like many of his Tiger teammates, Perry liked the Noles growing up.

"I love FSU," he said. "I don't have any particular reason I just liked them since I was small. If they offered me tomorrow I would commit, most definitely."

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