Saturday, August 27, 2011

Prep football: Palmetto being cautious with Kevin O'Brien

(photo by Grant Jefferies)

As much as Kevin O'Brien wants to get back into Palmetto's lineup, the Tigers' coaching staff is taking its time with the senior offensive lineman.

O'Brien, who needed season-ending surgery after breaking his leg last October against Charlotte and tweaked a knee during fall practice, won't play Friday when Palmetto opens the regular season against Riverview.

In fact, he may not play until the Tigers begin their Class 5A-District 10 schedule Sept. 23 at Arcadia DeSoto.

"We rushed him back in preseason, and he took a step backwards," Palmetto coach Dave Marino said following Friday's 33-10 win over Venice in a Kickoff Classic, which O'Brien, wearing a jersey and a pair of shorts, watched from the sideline. "We want to win the district. We're going to focus on making sure he's 100 percent and ready to go when we begin our district schedule."

O'Brien is a Division I-caliber talent and a two-year starter and when he returns, he'll be in charge of protecting quarterback Trent Miller's blindside.

"He's working real hard at his rehab. He's getting better, he's getting stronger," Marino said. "We want to make sure there's no doubt he's 100 percent ready for the long haul.

"We're going to take our time with him...No doubt, (O'Brien will be back for) that first district game. But if he progresses the way we feel he can and keeps working as hard as has been in his rehab, maybe sooner."

Dante Logan, who spent all of last year playing JV, started in O'Brien's place Friday against Venice and during the spring game against Booker.

"He's done a good job," Marino said. "He's really improved."

The line looked good Friday, when it gave Miller ample time to complete 11 of 14 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns.

"They were giving me three, four, five seconds back there," Miller said. "If they do that, and with the receivers we have, somebody's going to be open."

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