With Shawn Hinkle now coaching the Canal Winchester High School football team, offseason training has included more running drills than previous years.

With Shawn Hinkle now coaching the Canal Winchester High School football team, offseason training has included more running drills than previous years.

Those drills have become decreasingly popular among the players as the weather has gotten hotter and more humid, but that hasn't stopped the Indians from executing them with intensity, senior running back Antonio Whitfield said.

"Coach Hinkle is real big on conditioning and running because he wants all of us in good physical shape so we can outlast the teams we play," Whitfield said. "Nobody really likes running because it leaves you exhausted and sometimes you even see guys go and throw up afterwards. But we work hard at it because we know that it makes us better and tougher, both physically and mentally. We show up and push ourselves to the limit in the weight room and during conditioning because we want to be the toughest team in the state."

The coaching staff has been busy designing plays for Canal Winchester's spread offense and working to overhaul the defense.

Hinkle and his staff will teach the new defensive scheme and new offensive plays during multiple team camps in July. The Indians will begin two-a-day practices on Aug. 1.

Even though the Indians expect to return several defensive starters, including seniors Britain Coldren (LB), Thomas Dexter (DL), Brennen Moore (DL) and Jesse Osborne (LB) and junior Deontaye Cosby (LB), they will convert to a 3-5 base defense after alternating between 4-3 and 3-4 base defenses last year.

During Hinkle's season as an assistant head coach under Phil Mauro in 2010, he was heavily involved in designing the spread offense, which set a program record by scoring 328 points. Last year, Canal Winchester won the MSL-Buckeye Division at 7-0, finishing undefeated in the league for the first time since 1975. The Indians finished 9-2 overall, losing to Big Walnut 44-20 in their Division II, Region 7 playoff opener.

"We're changing our defense to a 3-5 to match the athletes we have and to be more aggressive because we have a lot of linebacker-type athletes right now," Hinkle said.

The Indians are looking to replace three starters on offense, including quarterback Drew Black and running back Sam Jones.

Black threw 17 touchdown passes and rushed for 12 more last fall, and Jones rushed for 10 touchdowns.

Senior Alex Fox, junior Isaac Pifer and sophomore Zach Bontempo are expected to compete for the starting quarterback position. Seniors Alex Pickens and Whitfield likely will share duties at running back.

"Our offense graduated a lot of people, but we have a lot of talent in our program and the kids are pushing each other to be their best while they compete for jobs," Hinkle said. "A lot of our kids competed in track, baseball, basketball and wrestling and were successful in those sports. A lot of them also get together on their own for 7-on-7 competition or for extra lifting and conditioning, so they're getting better every day. All of that stuff should make us better as a team."

Even though students' extracurricular activity fees are expected to increase from $140 to $300 beginning with the 2011-12 school year, Hinkle is optimistic that his program's numbers won't drastically decline.

On May 3, voters decided not to renew a two-year, $6.4-million emergency levy that was approved in May 2009 and expired at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

Mauro left to become coach at Trenton Edgewood and dean of students at Edgewood's freshman academy after he was informed that his Canal Winchester teaching position could be eliminated even if voters decided to renew the levy.

Students' extracurricular activity fees will increase to $450 per activity for 2012-13 and to $600 for 2013-14 if another levy isn't approved before then.

"Paying those higher fees will be a struggle for some families and every sport will lose some potential athletes," Hinkle said. "I don't think it will hurt us as much this year because we're going to do some fundraising to allow our athletes to help themselves. But if we don't pass a levy until next year and the fee rises to $450 then it could really hurt us."

Canal Winchester's Alex Pickens stretches for extra yards against Big Walnut during the first round of the Division II playoffs last season. Pickens is expected to share time at running back next season with Antonio Whitfield.