The spring football season has come and gone. The seniors from last fall have graduated.
Soon, school will be out and summer workouts will begin.
We learned a lot about the Indians over the past month.
Practices, the Green & White game, scrimmages at North Fort Myers and the spring game at Lakeland were all chances for us to get a glimpse at what the Venice football team might look like when school returns in August.
The Indians lost several senior starters on both sides of the ball from last season’s run to the state semifinals, but as is the case with Venice, “rebuilding” should read more like “retooling” for another playoff run.
Nico DallaCosta is the quarterbackComing into the spring, I figured that rising-senior Nico DallaCosta would be the obvious choice to start at quarterback for Venice.
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, he is an ideal fit for the dual-threat system that the Indians have loved to run over the years with the likes of Trey Burton and Bryce Carpenter.
However, when I met with coach John Peacock after the first practice of the spring, he said the position was open to a competition of DallaCosta, rising-sophomore Carson Smith and Middleton (Tampa) transfer Gabe Weldon.
After watching practices, scrimmages and the spring game, I think it’s pretty clear that DallaCosta is the man for the job.
Not only did he sit out the Green & White (JV vs. second string varsity) game, but he took almost every snap in the three scrimmages at North Fort Myers and sat out just one drive against Lakeland due to a minor injury.
Even while hurting his left knee and his throwing hand, Peacock kept DallaCosta in the game against Lakeland.
Though he struggled passing the ball, he ran for 95 yards and a touchdown and had Venice leading the defending state champions for most of the game.
Barring an injury, it would be a shock to me if DallaCosta isn’t leading the Indians this fall.
Brian Taylor is much improvedLast year, the Venice offense went as Brandon Gregory did. The senior running back put up video game kinds of stats in 2018 — rushing for 1,489 yards and scoring 31 touchdowns across 13 games.
So with Gregory now graduated and headed off to play for UT Chatanooga, the Indians will need someone to fill the void.
Look no further than Brian Taylor, who has flashed glimpses of greatness this spring for Venice.
Taylor was a member of the boys weightlifting team, where he added strength and size to his skillset. He’s also used the offseason to work on his ball security, as fumbling was an issue for him in 2018.
Already, he looks like a new player.
The rising-senior rushed for 185 yards and two touchdowns on Lakeland, continually picking up first downs and putting pressure on the Dreadnaughts defense.
He also dominated touches in the scrimmages at North Fort Myers, and looks to be the featured back this fall.
Backup Desavion Cassaway and Griffin Hines have looked solid in backup roles this spring, but it’s Taylor who has really stood out as a weapon for the Indians.
Defense has work to doUndeniably, the defense lost the most talent among the crop of graduation seniors. Along with a new defensive line, Venice will also be employing new starting linebackers a new safety and a new cornerback.
There will certainly be an adjustment period for the new members of the defense, and that was clear in the spring game as they allowed nearly 400 rushing yards and 33 points of offense.
It should be noted that the Indians were tasked with stopping Clemson commit Demarkcus Bowman — one of the best high school running backs in the country. However, it’s not like the schedule gets a whole lot easier for Venice.
The 2019 Indians have one of the toughest schedules in the state, and perhaps the country as they’re scheduled to play teams like IMG, St. Frances Academy and Vero Beach.
The secondary, now led by returners Rowan Foskin (cornerback) and Christian George (now a safety, last year a cornerback) and new contributors Steffan Johnson (cornerback) and Jackson Fleming (safety) impressed in both the scrimmages and the spring game.
Johnson particularly looks like a difference-maker for Venice as his length and athleticism make for a dangerous defensive back, but also adds the necessary depth to shift George to safety.
However, the defensive line and linebackers struggled to apply pressure on the quarterback this spring and certainly had trouble wrapping up Bowman and his cohorts in the backfield last week.
Some growth and learning should be expected from a nearly brand-new group this summer, and I’m sure defensive coordinator Larry Shannon won’t let them forget about the yards and points they allowed to the Dreadnaughts.