The Tampa Bay Storm began the 2011 season knowing that they would be the defending American Conference Champions, having participated in their ninth Arena Bowl Championship following the 2010 season.
However, what followed in the months ahead wasn’t at all a part of the Storm’s playbook for the 2011 season. There were changes in ownership, management, a new head coach and a team that had lost numerous starters, which included their star quarterback and coach just weeks before the opening kickoff. To say the 2011 AFL season for the Storm was a disappointment would be an understatement.
The Storm would endure through a 7-11 season that had new Coach Dave Ewart go through starting quarterbacks quicker than former coach Tim Marcum did with his kickers – but that position wasn’t his only problem and it wasn’t the reason for the Storm’s woes.
Ewart was named coach just days before the season started and had little or no time to prepare as the coach for the most storied franchise in the history of the Arena Football League.
This off-season though is entirely a different story as Ewart, his coaching staff along with Derrick Brooks and Jeff Gooch, the Storm’s President and Vice President of Football Operations respectively have been hard at work in preparing the team for a successful 2012 season and beyond.
Brooks and Gooch, two former Tampa Bay Buccaneers who were hired by Owner Jeff Vinik, took a page out of his playbook with his “long-term commitment” to the team and the direction that it is headed… wanting to bring it [Storm] back to greatness.
The trio [Ewart, Brooks and Gooch] have wasted little time in preparing the Storm for the 2012 season by addressing the needs to bring the team back to their winning ways of the past.
Knowing that the quarterback position in the AFL is its most prominent position, the Storm needed to address this weakness of their roster. They had so consistency as evident by the five they went through in 2011.
Despite a strong showing from former USF Bull Matt Grothe, who would compete for the starting job in 2012, the Storm on the first day of free agency signed Nick Hill formally of the Orlando Predators.
Hill’s signing is just what the doctor ordered for the Storm. In his two seasons with Orlando Hill led the team to the playoffs, including a trip to the American Conference Champion in 2010. This past season, he led the AFL with a 321.8 yards per game average.
Additionally, Hill ranked second in the AFL with 391 total rushing yards and fourth with 4,758 yards passing and 106 total offensive touchdowns. In 16 games he completed 387 of 578 passes with 97 touchdowns, while adding nine more on the ground. He owns the Predators regular season record for pass completions in a game (36) and season (387), passing yards in a game (393) and season (4,758), as well as touchdown passes in a season (97).
Prior to the start of free agency, the Storm announced the re-signing of Jorge Guerra, Amarri Jackson, Tom Kaleita, Colin Nelson, Craig Camay, Matt Grothe, Michael Lindsey, Tavious Polo and Erick McIntosh during the AFL’s three-week exclusive team re-signing period.
Guerra a rookie in 2011 lined up on the offensive line and saw action at fullback. Jackson another rookie had a breakout season setting team marks by a rookie with 125 receptions, 1,619 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Nelson joined the Storm late in the 2011 season appearing in and making two starts at defensive back. In those two games, he recorded 8.5 tackles and a pass break up.
Kaleita a four-year veteran will return for his fifth season with the Storm. He earned All-Arena honors in 2010 as he limited the opposition to one sack that season, an effort he duplicated in 2012. Kaleita has appeared in 54 games with the Storm and recorded 17 career receptions for 135 yards and six touchdowns.
Camay kicked for the Storm in the final game of the regular season. Grothe appeared in the final two games of the 2011 season. In his two appearances, Grothe completed 29-of-58 passes for 440 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Lindsey set a new franchise mark for kickoff return yards in a season with 1,745, shattering the previous mark of 1,282 held by AFL Hall of Famer George LaFrance. He led the AFL with the most 100-yard return games (11) and added three touchdown returns. Lindsey also recorded 44 receptions for 440 yards and four touchdowns while adding another three touchdowns on the ground.
Polo joined the Storm at the end of the 2011 season and played in the final two games. He recorded an interception in each game and tallied one tackle.
McIntosh has been a mainstay in the backfield and over the past two seasons he’s recorded 142 tackles, 24 pass breakups, six interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He also has a knack for capitalizing on turnovers as he registered three touchdown returns.
In resigning the nine, plus the free agent signing of Hill, Derrick Brooks has begun to place his stamp on the organization in improving the organization not only for this upcoming season but for the future as well.
For more info: Tampa Bay Storm
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