Q&A with Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore
Published: Monday, August 5, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 4, 2013 at 7:06 p.m.
1. What are your expectations for the season?
“I am optimistic about the team that we have coming back off of a 6-6, second round of the playoffs campaign last year. I feel confident about this being my second year and second go-around and I’m real confident about the coaching staff that we have in place. I like our staff, the continuity that we have. It’s critical. And from a team standpoint, I think our personalities really jell this year.”
2. Tell us about some players you expect big things from this year?
“Individually, we’ve got Josh McCullough. He’s our starting center and potentially a starting defensive tackle for us this year. Weighing 300 pounds and standing 6-foot-1, he’s a viable offensive and defensive player. He’s got good feet and has a willingness to be a team player. … Demitri Weekes (WR/S) came off an injury mid-season last year. He’s one of our biggest college prospects. He missed half the season and the playoffs. But he’s had an excellent summer. He’s back full speed and ready to go. … Then Jerome Johnson (DT), probably our most recruited guy. His transformation from sophomore to now going into his senior year has been really fun to watch. … Jordan Nichols (QB/TE) is a three-year varsity player. He has seen action as a starting quarterback his sophomore and junior seasons and really has been a key teammate and player for us. Kind of holding things together for us in some really rough times. … Last we’ve got Logan Weekes, who I’ve already designated as a team captain. He’s going to be our anchor there at linebacker as a returning starter.
3. In what areas do you expect your team to improve most from last year?
“I’d say the defensive backfield is probably our strongest unit right now. I’d say top to bottom we have the most returning starters coming back in the defensive backfield. Really, the perimeter of our team is the most tried at this point — the most game-tested.”
4. You got Buchholz back in the playoffs for the first time since 2008. What changed in that team, which was 1-3 at the start last season?
“We had a complete team when we went to Chiles for our second district game and we won games 7, 8, 9 and 10. We got a little beat up in the first part of the year and obviously it translated into some losses. Even if we would’ve been healthy, it’s tough to say. Our opponents were very viable. We played Vanguard, Lincoln and Gainesville High. These are state-caliber teams.”
5. How will pulling a huge upset in the state playoffs (upset at No. 2 Jacksonville First Coast) motivate your team going into this year?
“I think it’s a motivator. It’s an impetus for them to begin to believe, ‘Yes, we can beat the best and be the best.’ … And conversely, they can get a little too confident. So we try to remind them of the win and keep that fresh, but at the same time, remind them that we still lost to Lincoln in the second round.”