TAMPA — Alonso’s Chris Oladokun was able to sneak under the radar as a quarterback to start the 2013 season, but after posting six double-digit completion games, passing for 2,003 yards and compiling a 23-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio, the secret is out.
“Last year, no one really knew about me, so I felt like out of the gates I had to prove myself not just to other teams, but to my coaches and teammates,” Oladokun said. “… It’s easy to get caught up in what I did, but now it’s about keeping up with the goals ahead and work on what I have to do this season.”
Head coach Brian Emanuel said the staff didn’t fully recognize Oladokun’s abililies early in his career because his calm demeanor made it look as if he’s holding back. However, his coach then realized it was just his style — and that translated into focus and composure at game time.
“We kind of had the handcuffs on him early last year and if I had to do one thing over, I’d probably have released him a little earlier in the season,” Emanuel said. “He does everything kind of smooth and we didn’t know how he does things in practice is how he does things on Friday nights when you are down 12 points.”
Oladokun knows he has a lot to live up to after last season and knows the challenge will be steep — he lost three Division I players on offense, including leading rusher Ish Witter, and his four leading receivers from a season ago, so the offense needs new leaders to step up.
“We had a lot of receivers leave from last year,” he said. “Every day, though, we have done the little things, watched film, ran routes, gone over plays and we are ready to step up.”
The Ravens have some holes to fill but won’t have to delve into untested talent to do so. Senior Terryl Scott, who played primarily safety and cornerback last season, will factor in as the team’s No. 1 receiver and provides a 6-foot-2 target for quarterback Chris Oladokun. Kelvin Clemmons is making the transition from running back to receiver, and junior Derrick Walker is emerging as a top target.
Senior captain Zantavius Showers is a running back who will be called on to replace Ish Witter’s workload and his coach has dubbed him a “sleeper” who will surprise a lot of defenses this season.
Coach Brian Emanuel expects to get a big lift from new coordinator Kirk Karsen, who joins the Ravens from Sickles, where he was named assistant coach of the year by National Football Foundation.
“Karsen is a head coach. Anywhere he wants to go, he’s a head coach,” Emanuel said. “And when you can get a coach of that caliber, especially stealing him from your nearby rival, that’s a big lift for our program.”
Jeremy Martinez, the Ravens’ middle linebacker, is a big hitter who has stepped up as a leader for the defense. Reagan Upshaw Jr. and Jordon Smiley will anchor Alonso’s line. Roosevelt Lawrence will head the secondary.
Emanuel has a big threat if Oladokun can hit the ground running as he did last season, but he will need to have his supporting cast step up in a hurry. The addition of Karsen has Emanuel excited and it will be tested quickly as the Ravens open the season on the road at Jefferson.
• About the Ravens
Stadium: Alonso Stadium, 8302 Montague St., Tampa
Class-District: 8A-6 (with Bloomingdale, Newsome, Plant, Riverview and Wharton)
Coach: Brian Emanuel (16-14, fourth season)
Last season: 5-5
Aug. 29: at Jefferson
Sept. 5: Steinbrenner
Sept. 12: East Bay
Sept. 19: at Newsome
Sept. 26: at Spoto
Oct. 2: Bloomingdale
Oct. 17: Wharton
Oct. 24: at Riverview
Oct. 31: at Plant
Nov. 7: Sickles