|photo by Grant Jefferies|
2. The area's best running back will be...: Manatee has Walters, but Southeast has Courtney Allen, who stayed away from the injury bug last season and wound up rushing for 1,334 yards and 17 TDs in leading the Seminoles to a district title. And don't sleep on Palmetto's Josh Hicks. Position changes and injuries limited Hicks, who also saw time at linebacker, to 594 yards last year. But the Rutgers commit totaled 1,410 yards a sophomore, so the rack record is there.
3. Can Elijah Freeman make a difference at Bayshore?: The former Palmetto assistant has been tabbed to turn around a program that hasn't had a winning season since 2003 and hasn't made the playoffs since '05. A Bayshore grad, Freeman's first mission is to get people excited about football again, and that includes the Bruins' student body. Winning, especially early, will help crowd up Balvanz Stadium a bit.
4. What will Curt Bradley do with a second season at Braden River?: Injuries upon injuries took their toll in the Pirates last year, who went 1-9, their worst record since they started playing a full varsity schedule in 2007. Braden River's lone win did come in during its regular-season finale, however, which could spring the Pirates forward. What the Pirates do need is Bradley to stick around - he is the program's fourth head coach. This is a team in need of stability.
5. Will any locals challenge the Hurricanes?: Manatee may have fallen short in its quest to win state and national titles last year, but there is no doubt the Canes are the area's best team. Manatee has not lost to a county rival since 2006 and triggered a running clock against all of its Sarasota and Manatee county opponents last year.