Inside the Trojans
Last season: 9-2
Returning starters: 7 (6 offense, 1 defense)
Returning offensive leader
Jon Horvath, Sr., FB. (130 carries, 629 yards, 11 TDs; 12 catches, 55 yards).
Returning defensive leader
Andrew Ralph, Jr., S. (46 TKLs, 4 INT, 1 sack).
Andrew Ralph, Sr., S. An Ivy League recruit, Ralph provides a physical presence in the secondary and in run support. "He can really get to the point of attack," coach Mark Peterson said. "When we're able to force a run to the edge, that plays to his forte." Ralph's leadership and steady hand will be crucial as a young defense cuts its teeth.
He's got next
Avery Beeks, Jr., WB. Beeks will provide the stretch element in an offense that graduated plenty of vertical firepower. He excelled in a spot role and now figures to become a 20-touch-per-game guy between rushing and receiving. "He's starting to come into his own in that regard," Peterson said. "He's a great athlete. He's got good speed and he's fantastic in space. Those are things we're going to try to build around."
The Times' breakdown
Chesterton figures to still have a productive, if not as explosive, offense. Cole Teal, who saw starting time at QB as a sophomore, should form a solid option trio along with Horvath, a tough inside runner and reliable pass catcher, and the elusive Beeks. A big, experienced will help. The Trojans may be more methodical, which will be crucial early in the season as 10 new starters learn the ropes on a defense that's going to need time to come together. Even then, it will be tough to meet last year's production. "It's kind of the next-man-up mentality," Peterson said. "We've got a really good nucleus of kids on defense who saw part-time, back-up roles. Now they get their opportunity to shine, and they have to understand the demands of taking on full-time responsibility." With a back-loaded schedule, Peterson hopes they can find their stride by the time they hit the grind.
-- Jim Peters