Two spread offenses will be on display when the Dublin Coffman football team travels to Clayton Northmont on Friday, Aug. 30, to open the season, but expect the offenses to have different looks.
The Shamrocks, however, entered the week with a major question mark regarding senior running back Mike Drennen. The second-team all-state honoree is nursing a foot injury after rushing for 801 yards and 11 touchdowns on 162 carries and catching 30 passes for 464 yards and five scores last fall.
"Mike has been dealing with a foot issue," coach Mark Crabtree said. "He's been doing a great job of rehabbing it and it's getting better. We'll see if he's ready (for the opener). I know he feels good and he's ready, but we want him to be 100 percent healthy."
If Drennen can't go, look for senior Moussa Diallo (129 carries, 534 yards, 6 TDs) to get the bulk of the carries. Diallo missed four games last season with a broken hand.
Northmont features a pair of flashy, talented wide receivers in Justin Colson and Jazz Keys, while Coffman will lean on its running game to help its first-year starting quarterback in junior Connor Mathews.
Coffman is coming off a season in which it finished 11-2 after losing to Olentangy Liberty 21-7 in a Division I, Region 2 final, while Northmont finished 10-2 a year ago after losing to Pickerington Central 33-7 in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal.
"We're not the same team we were last year (because of graduation losses)," Thunderbolts coach Tony Broering said. "We lost our quarterback (Miles Johnson, now at Urbana), three of our four defensive linemen, including a defensive end who went to Michigan (Gabe Newburg), and we lost a strong safety (Jestin Jacobs) to Iowa."
What the Thunderbolts do have are Colson (54 catches, 966 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Keys (56 catches, 747 yards, 5 TDs) at receiver and senior running back Michael Franklin (197 carries, 1,092 yards, 15 TDs). Senior Keaton Kesling has taken over at quarterback.
"We're glad that we have got (Coffman) here at our place because we understand what we're up against," Broering said. "We know how talented they are. They made a nice run last season and we saw they went toe-to-toe in a scrimmage against Pickerington Central, so they are for real."
Defensively, Northmont is led by senior end Jaiden Cameron, who has committed to Northwestern.
Coffman has eight starters back on defense, including three linemen in seniors Nick Sayles (21 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack) and Colton Wolfe (23 tackles, 1 fumble recovery) and junior Hammond Russell (31 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks).
Juniors Bryon Threats (35 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble) and Devon Williams (49 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) return at linebacker.
"I think we have had a good effort in our scrimmages and we have made a ton of mistakes, but that's what scrimmages are for," Crabtree said. "You get that on video, you go back and make improvements in practice. It shows you what you need to be working on.
"You always have some questions coming into the season, but we're working to get these guys better at what they do."