Inside the Oilers
Last season: 10-1
Returning starters: 12 (6 offense, 6 defense)
Returning offensive leader
AJ Veloz, Sr. QB. 122-198 passing, 2,011 yards, 25 touchdowns, 5 interceptions.
Returning defensive leader
Marcelo Lopez, Jr., LB. 67 tackles (42 solo).
Ethan Young, Jr., RB. The 1,000-yard rusher will again be the feature back for the Oilers, as he will look to improve upon his stellar campaigns in 2011 and 2012. “Ethan keeps getting better and better,” coach Jeff Cain said. “He can do a bit of everything for us, but he is also a blocking machine. He takes pride in doing that.”
He's got next
Kris Krzyston, Jr., DT and Jesse Maynard, Sr., LB. The mammoth of a lineman Krzyston will be a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators and will command double teams all year long, while Maynard could be the beneficiary of that and make some key plays for the usually daunting Whiting front seven. “Both have waited their turns," Cain said. "Kris will free up linebackers and if either doesn’t see double teams, they will make some plays."
The Times' breakdown
The Oilers are the most recent beneficiaries of artificial turf, installed this summer. While they are more than grateful, fans won’t hear anyone saying it’s a competitive advantage for them. “We are who we are,” Whiting all-time winningest coach Jeff Cain said with a smile. “It’s a beautiful field, but it makes the opposition quicker, too.” Whiting was the last team in the region to finish a regular season undefeated, then they ran until sectional obstacle West Central, a 43-3 loss. Back are the usual suspects for Whiting in Veloz and Young, who have shined offensively in the last couple years. Veloz may go down as one of the best quarterbacks in the last 30 years at Whiting if he can guide his team to that elusive sectional title, as he has the stats to back it up with his 25 touchdowns to just five picks last year. “AJ is a student of the game and has the mentality of a coach,” Cain said. The biggest difference this year is that Veloz won’t have game-changing now-graduated weapons like Justin Jendreas, Patrick Petruf and Rudy Wanek to throw to. The biggest question mark going into the season for the Oilers is who they will have on the outside to complement the strong running game of Young, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year as a sophomore. Here’s a rarity for Whiting: four-year varsity mainstay Keegan Rooke will be the only player going on both sides of the ball early on, as the Oilers have more depth this year than in recent memory. “It’s time for kids to step up," Cain said. "We had another good summer with this group and we’re replacing three players with six." Rooke will likely be one of the focal points in Whiting’s rhythmic attack because of his contribution at every offensive skill position during his career. This year it’s his turn to be the No. 1 option. “He’s a good two-way player,” said Cain. “He kind of got lost in the shuffle because he has waited for the guys in front of him, but he has produced for four years with us.” There’s a different feel around camp because they don’t really feel the pressure of sectional title talk coursing through their veins, especially the coaching staff. “When you get older, your priorities change," Cain said. "We’re trying to help mold these kids into men and it’s easier to come in because these kids work so hard. We’ve had a lot of administrative, fan and parent support." – Paul Honeycutt