Inside the Bearcats
Last season: 6-4
Returning starters: 13 (6 offense, 7 defense)
Returning offensive leader
Jake Bertucci, Sr. FB. 54 carries, 335 yards.
Returning defensive leader
Kyle Burch, Sr., DB. 65 tackles, 2 INT.
Jake Bertucci, Sr., FB/DT. The powerful four-year starter is an ideal fit for Wheeler's triple-option scheme, providing a physical presence as both an inside runner and a lead blocker. A tackle on defense, Bertucci practiced hurdles during track to improve his mobility.
He's got next
Riley Smith, Sr., QB. Smith doesn't have a lot of mileage under center, let alone running the triple option, yet he's the guy pulling the trigger. "He came to me and said he wanted to be our quarterback," coach Tony Klimczak said. "I asked him why and he said he wanted the ball in his hands with the game on the line. I told him, 'It's your job, buddy.'" If Smith can made the reads and decisions, Wheeler has the making of a potent offense.
The Times' breakdown
Klimczak spent much of the offseason in the lab, researching a change in offense to suit his personnel. The move to an up-tempo 'Pistol' attack enables him to run the triple option, but take pressure off Smith and keep the passing game active. Injuries riddled the defense last year, but the end result is a wealth of linebacker experience and depth. "We've got a real strong linebacker corps," Klimczak said. "I really think our defense will be very solid." Wheeler regrouped from an 0-3 start to go 6-4 and Klimczak expects to pick up on that strong finish in his second go-round. "I was overly optimistic last year," he said. "Honestly, I was masking the fact that I was scared. We definitely underachieved. I really like this team. We've got a small team (38 players), but we've got a lot of quality varsity players."
— Jim Peters