One of the things the seniors on the New Albany High School football team said before last season was that none of them had experienced a playoff game.

One of the things the seniors on the New Albany High School football team said before last season was that none of them had experienced a playoff game.

Since joining the OCC-Capital Division in 2006, the Eagles have won consistently. But after making a Division III state semifinal appearance in 2006, they missed the playoffs the next three years despite posting seven wins each of those seasons.

Last year, the Eagles made the Division II playoffs, losing to Dresden Tri-Valley 30-27 in overtime in the first round. New Albany finished 10-1 overall and won the OCC-Capital championship at 7-0, finishing ahead of Big Walnut (5-2), Mount Vernon (5-2), Olentangy Orange (5-2), Watkins Memorial (3-4), Delaware (2-5), Hilliard Bradley (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7).

With seniors all over the field, including quarterback, left tackle, middle linebacker and both running back positions, the biggest question for New Albany heading into the offseason was where its leadership would come from next season.

Three of the seniors - quarterback Bryant Bednarek (Davidson), defensive end Kashton Foley (Butler) and left tackle Vinnie Cordova (Eastern Illinois) - have committed to Division I colleges.

"We're going to need some people to step up and lead," said coach Mark Mueller, whose team finished second (31.15 points) in the Division II, Region 7 computer rankings last season behind Marion-Franklin (31.8657). "We can replace the players. Who is going to step up and lead the team?"

Leadership starts to develop when players show up to weight-room sessions four days a week during the offseason. It continues during the preseason and regular season through a classroom program.

Before the 2009 season, Mueller implemented a plan for developing good character players. The idea was taken from Jim Tressel's book, The Winners Manual: For the Game of Life. The Eagles spend 20 minutes in the classroom every Monday before practice. They call these sessions "character education."

"It's about coming up with guys that are willing to do the right things and put in the time," Mueller said.

The Eagles also must find replacements for other productive players in senior linebackers Sylvester Hagan and Matt White, senior running backs Jordan Gallegos and Alex Hake and senior offensive linemen Clark Hillenbrand and Matt Odierno.

Sophomore Darron Lee or junior Zach Tomi likely will take over at quarterback. Like Bednarek, Tomi was one of the Eagles' top defensive backs last season. Junior Kevin Collins should give the Eagles an experienced receiving threat, and junior Mark Schubert and sophomore Sam Nunner should give the Eagles two experienced offensive linemen.

Other expected returnees include juniors Connor Wilson (RB/DB) and Jimmy Gammill (K).

Outside of doing weightlifting four days a week, the expected returnees are encouraged to pursue other activities during the offseason.

"I want them playing basketball and doing different things rather than playing football," Mueller said. "Kids might get together and throw, but we don't want to monopolize their time. We'll monopolize their time once we start in August. We want them coming in fresh."