Trio of Panthers vying to replace Plant quarterback Rex Culpepper



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Tue. July 21, 2015 | Kelly Parsons

Judge Culpepper Dane FrantzenKyle Trina

On Monday afternoon, Plant’s first workout since senior quarterback Rex Culpepper tore his ACL in a weekend 7-on-7 tournament, coach Robert Weiner began the day by reminding his team that the season wasn’t over; to stay motivated out of respect for their teammate. 

Culpepper, who threw for 2,016 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, was to be a big part of the Plant offense, and he would have been Plant’s first returning starter under center in five years. But after tearing the ACL in his right knee playing wide receiver in a 7-on-7 tournament at USF on Saturday, the Syracuse commit is out for the season. He will have surgery Aug. 4, a day after the first practice of the fall. 

“A lot of the emotions are, there’s been so much put into this, is this all for naught? And the truth is, that it’s not,” Weiner said. “He’ll still bring a lot to our team, and then also what he’s learned physically and mentally about the game, those are things he’ll immediately apply when he gets to Syracuse.”

Weiner said his priority since Culpepper’s injury has been to be there for his quarterback as he deals with the shock of his high school playing career ending too soon. In the back of his mind, though, Weiner also knows he has a big decision to make. 

Weiner, who is both the head coach and quarterbacks coach, must decide who will replace Culpepper under center and be the next Panther in a long line of successful quarterbacks churned out by the four-time state championship program. Now, he’s considering three Panthers to fill Culpepper’s shoes — junior fullback Dane Frantzen, sophomore tight end Judge Culpepper and junior quarterback Kyle Trina.

Judge Culpepper, Rex’s brother, was the junior varsity quarterback for the Panthers last season and plays at 6-foot-3, 226 pounds, slightly bigger than his brother. Frantzen (5-10, 185) is also a former JV quarterback, and rushed for nearly 200 yards and two scores last year at fullback. Trina (5-9, 165) is more of a gunslinger and was a finalist at John Kaleo’s quarterback challenge during the offseason. 

Still, with none of the three having any significant playing time as a varsity quarterback, Weiner is preparing himself for the unknown.

“It doesn’t matter if I make that choice today, or if I make it in two weeks, or even if I made it at training camp,” he said. “Really none of it is going to be made on any real, empirical data, which is kind of what you need.”

One of the most disappointing parts about his starting quarterback’s injury, Weiner said, is that without Culpepper’s knowledge of the playbook — the thing he’s studied for more than two years — the playbook itself will likely be diminished to about a fourth of what it would have been had he been under center.

The Panthers know, though, that life — and the season, which officially begins Aug. 28 with a game against Colquitt County (Ga.) — must go on. 

Weiner has lost quarterbacks for a season before due to injury, including when former Panther quarterback Aaron Murray broke his leg in 2008 and had to be replaced by Phillip Ely for most of the year. 

That team went on to win a state championship. And, Weiner said, it wasn’t just because Ely was a successful substitute. 

“It was a defense that came alive and became the best defense in the state. It was an offensive line that said, ‘Phillip won’t get touched,’ and he only got sacked three times in seven games. It was skill players that started making plays they hadn’t made before,” Weiner recalled. 

“It was all of those things, so that’s going to be the case here.”

Contact Kelly Parsons at kaparsons@tampabay.com. Follow @_kellyparsons.

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