Veteran coach John Magistro has brought a fresh attitude to the Westerville Central High School football program.
Magistro takes over a team that finished 0-10 overall and last at 0-7 in the OCC-Cardinal Division as Olentangy Liberty, Dublin Jerome and Westerville each went 5-2 to share the title.
"I understand what we have to do here," said Magistro, who replaced Bob Fresch. "The kids are buying into it. As a head coach, I have to be patient knowing that the system is not going to be picked up overnight.
"It's going a little bit slow for me offensively. Defensively, we're starting to put it together a little bit quicker."
Central lost 16 players to graduation, including tailback Brandon Walls, who ran for 344 yards and a touchdown on 59 carries.
Senior quarterback Kyle Stephenson returns. He led the team in rushing with 387 yards on 92 attempts and scored three touchdowns.
"Coach Magistro came in here this year and told us how it's going to be," Stephenson said. "We're not doing anything the same as last year. Intensity is up in practice and everyone is out here working hard."
Magistro expects a wide-open battle in the backfield, with senior tailback TaQwaun Council possibly leading the charge.
Other candidates include seniors Bobby Tucker and Zach Vanaman, junior Myles Fisher and sophomores John Howard and Davon Reed.
"We know we're better than 0-10," Tucker said. "We just couldn't become one. I think this year with coach Magistro, he's making us become one and be a good team."
"There's a chance we might be like Ohio State," Magistro said. "We might run four, five backs during a game. It's a nice luxury."
Senior Luke Meissner who caught 19 passes for 427 yards and four touchdowns, should lead the receivers.
Other receivers are Reed, senior Demetrius McLaughlin, junior Rashaun Brown and sophomore Max Shawver. Senior Tanner Ayle (6-0, 180) and junior Nick Vannett (6-6, 220) are leading candidates to play tight end.
Senior Davonte Butler (6-5, 230) should anchor the line at left tackle. Senior Matt Sabol (5-11, 195) and junior Chad Lindsay (6-1, 262) are competing at center.
Also competing for positions on the line are seniors Aaron Caldwell (6-1, 240), James Harbarger (6-2, 286), Lot Kwarteng (6-2, 205), Michael McGee (5-11, 240) and Zach Swick (5-11, 225), junior Jake Simmerman (6-1, 205) and sophomore Evan Stevenson (5-11, 216).
"We're going to try to do a little spread and we're going to try to do a little bit of I-formation," Magistro said. "We want to be shotgun and we also want to be underneath, so we're going to be doing both. Right now, the running game is much further ahead than our passing game, which is usually that way."
Magistro and his staff have installed a 4-3 defense, which the coach promises will be aggressive.
"We like to come after you a little bit," he said.
The line will feature Butler, Kwarteng, McGee, Swick and Vannett.
McGee will also see time at linebacker, along with Tucker, Vanaman, senior Brian Nelson (6-0, 225) and sophomore Cody Kondas (6-3, 215).
Ayle leads an experienced secondary at safety, with Council, Hunter, Meissner, Fisher and senior Darrell Harley also expected to contribute.
Junior punter/kicker Connor Johnson and junior punter Kevin Chen will lead the special teams.
"I think we have some speed," Magistro said. "I think we have a winning attitude. They want to go out and change it around. They really accept the coaching you give them."