The 2011 football season for the Lake Gibson Braves will certainly be a rebuilding year filled with new faces and position movement. The good news is that Head Coach Keith DeMyer will return arguably the best defensive line in the state. Along with that defensive line, the Braves return a couple of very good starters on the offensive line, their starting quarterback, and a starting safety.
On offense, it all starts with the offensive line: a tough group of guys with good college prospects led by Glenn Nichols. Nichols plays offensive tackle for the Braves, but at 6'3" 292, he will be a guard at the next level. He is a powerful run blocker with a strong lower body and good size. Right now, footwork is the area where he is working the most and it will help him in pass protection and ultimately raise his stock.
Another offensive lineman to watch is guard August Schmidt. At about 6'2" 290, Schmidt is on the shorter side, but is another lineman with tremendous strength and lower body power. He is a dominant run blocker and does well getting to the second level and blocking down field. He also has a highlight reel showcasing his ability to finish blocks.
At quarterback, Lake Gibson appears to be set for the next three years. Rising sophomore Trey Congdon is a very promising looking player. At 6'2" 190, Congdon has good height, but is rather slender. He is not a mobile guy except for some bootlegs and being able to avoid a little pressure. Congdon is a pocket passer with a strong arm, enabling him to make most of the throws on the field. His footwork is awkward at this stage, but with three years to work on that and gain some size, he could be a quarterback to watch in the 2014 class.
The biggest areas of change on offense are at the skill positions. The Braves lost some players at wide receiver and are still trying to find guys to step up and lead at that position. Also, their two top running backs, Remi Watson and Shawdell Artis, both graduated as well. It is not an easy task to replace the production that Watson and Artis had, but Anthony Grant will carry the load at tail back and Sam Burroughs will be the fullback. Grant, who is 5'10" 175, has good size, but does not have the same level of speed at Watson. Grant is more of a north and south runner, and possesses more power in his game. Burroughs is 5'10" 180, which is smaller than Artis, but he is just as good if not better at blocking in pass protection and has very good hands out of the backfield. With some added weight, he will be able to fill that lead blocking roll easily.
With new guys at those positions and a lot of guys to work in a wide receiver, DeMyer said they might make a shift in play calling focus this season.
"We've been running the football for all 12 years I've been here and have had great success, but we will be throwing the ball a bit more this season probably with a guy like Congdon at QB."
Defense for the Braves will be anchored by three major players: DE Trent Taylor, DT Devante Terrell, and DT/DE Kennard Swanson. The trio makes up possibly the best defensive line unit in the state of Florida. Taylor, a Miami commit, is a beast at close to 6'4" 250. He is super strong and fast off the end, which helped him rack up 95 total tackles, 15 sacks, and 7 pass break-ups in his junior year. Due to his strength and athleticism, Taylor has been helping the offense by playing offensive tackle through the spring. Terrell is the big anchor on the line at between 6'0" to 6'0.5" and 275 pounds. He is on the short side, but has tremendous lower body strength as well as a powerful bull rush and spins that are attracting more and more attention from colleges. Swanson is only a rising junior. At 6'0" 250, he is another guy on the short side, but has tremendous speed off the edge allowing him to rack up 68 total tackles and 11 sacks last season. He runs in the 4.7s in the 40. Swanson has two years to hopefully grow, but at his current height and speed, he could move to linebacker at the next level.
Linebacker appears to be the biggest area of concern for Lake Gibson this season.
"We are not very strong right now at the LB spot," explained DeMyer. "We have two kids who had starts there last season returning, but we are just light years away from being ready to go at that position."
One guy who could factor in is Ray Lewis (no relation unfortunately). He is a sound technician and plays both DE and LB very well. However, he is only 5'11 180, so size is an issue if he takes the other DE spot and Swanson stays on the interior. DeMyer however would like to find someone else to play DT so he could use Lewis, who has good speed and understanding of the position, at linebacker.
In the secondary, there are holes to fill at cornerback, but Jordan Ensslin, a rising sophomore, returns at one of the safety spots. He has good size at 6'1" 180 and the coaches think he might grow another inch or so by the time he reaches his senior season. Ensslin is a tremendous run support player from the safety position who has great tackling form. He has the speed to roam the field, but needs to hit the weight room and build up strength so he can finish tackles easier.
The other safety spot will be filled by rising sophomore Kendall Gant who is playing both free safety and wide receive. At 6'2" 180, he has great size and speed, but there is an added factor to this member of the 2014 class: successful bloodlines. Gant's father, Kenny Gant, was a two time super bowl winner with the Dallas Cowboys and also a high school star at Kathleen High School. Kendall has a big name to live up to, but he looks very promising so far.
Lake Gibson will conclude their spring with a game at Kissimmee Osceola on Thursday, May 26th. The Kowboys are coming off a 5-7 season that ended with a first round loss to Oviedo in the playoffs. Lake Gibson will be looking to build off a very good 9-4 season that ended with a 10-9 loss to Gainesville High School in the Regional Finals. Coach DeMyer has mixed emotions about this year's squad, but from the looks of it, Lake Gibson has a good team with many solid players to try for another fantastic season.