TAMPA — Senior Cody Endris is a linebacker, a fullback, a long snapper, a coach on the field, and ... he loves every bit of it.
Blocking? “I would rather block for a runner than be the runner,” Endris said. “It can be pretty hard turning on a block and making sure you get it. There is a skill to it.”
Long snapping? “It may look easy, but (long snapping) is something you have to work on to get right,” said Endris, who has been a long snapper since his first year in pee wee football. “It took me a little while to get it down.”
Reading defenses? “I’ve called the (defensive) plays since I was a sophomore, so that part of it I know pretty well,” Endris said. “(Reading and reacting to offensive setups) is something I’ve always found easily recognizable.”
Add it up and Endris looks like a coach waiting to happen.
“I could definitely see myself coaching one day,” Endris said. “But that’s a little way off.”
First things first, namely helping Tampa Catholic in its effort to win its first state championship.
“This team is a little different from last year, but I think we can be just as good or better than last year’s team,” Endris said. “Overall, I think we might be a little smaller than last year, but we’re faster and we once again have some great athletes.”
As for college, Endris continues to weigh his options, but he definitely wants football to be part of his college experience.
“I want to play as long as I can,” Endris said. “No doubt about that.”
The Crusaders have two quarterbacks, each with his own skill set, capable of leading the offense. Coach Mike Gregory describes junior Tyler Simms as a dual-threat QB, while sophomore Kevin Knox is more of a pocket passer. Both played sparingly behind starter Kyle Ploucher last season and Gregory might use both depending on the formation this season.
Whoever is on the field, getting the ball to junior receiver Nate Craig will be a priority. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound wideout is rated the No. 1 junior in the country by Rivals and has committed to Auburn.
“Nate gives us a lot of versatility,” Gregory said. “Wide receiver, slot or quarterback. It’d be silly not to find a way to get the ball in his hands.”
Tampa Catholic graduated its top two rushers from last season and will use several backs, including Ben Reed, Jalen Dickenson and Devan Barrett.
The strength lies in junior defensive lineman Malik Barrow, who had 13 sacks last season.
“He’s explosive,” Gregory said. “He’s just naturally stronger than the competition he’s going to face. He can get off the ball and hand fight.”
Gregory is expecting senior linebacker Cody Endris, a three-year starter, to be the quarterback of the defense. Endris’ 83 tackles and four interceptions both ranked second on the team last season.
The secondary will be young but talented, featuring sophomores Bentlee Sanders and Barrett, but also experienced with upperclassmen Ryan Belfiore and Andre Black.
A tough non-conference schedule prepared Tampa Catholic for a competitive district race last season and Gregory expects the same this year, with games at Madison County and Clearwater Central Catholic. The Crusaders graduated 14 starters, including two All-Americans, a Division I linebacker, quarterback and receiver, yet Gregory is optimistic.
“My expectation is the same as it always is,” he said. “Win the district, make a run in the playoffs and play for a state title.”
• About the Crusaders
Stadium: Crusaders Stadium, 4630 N. Rome Ave., Tampa
Class-District: 3A-4 (with Berkeley Prep, Fort Meade, Frostproof and Lakeland Christian)
Coach: Mike Gregory (10-3, second season)
Last season: 10-3
Aug. 29: at Madison County
Sept. 5: at Clearwater Central Catholic
Sept. 12: Tarpon Springs
Sept. 19: at Fort Meade
Sept. 26: Sarasota Cardinal Mooney
Oct. 3: Frostproof
Oct. 17: Berkeley Prep
Oct. 24: at Lakeland Christian
Oct. 31: at Indian Rocks Christian
Nov. 7: Jesuit