Ryan Aiello experienced first-hand the struggles sometimes associated with building a program's depth last fall during his first season as coach of Newark Catholic.
Despite having seniors in numerous roles and opening with a 17-13 win over Zanesville Maysville, the Green Wave could not build on that week 1 victory.
Injuries to two key skill position players hurt the offense, as Newark Catholic averaged just 15.3 points and finished with the same record -- 3-7 overall and 2-2 in the LCL-Cardinal Division -- that it did in 2017 in the 16th and final season under former coach Bill Franks.
Following a season that Aiello calls "definitely a learning experience," he has added veteran coach Brian Cross to his staff.
Aiello was an assistant from 2015-17 at Ready under Cross, who guided that program the last five years and has an overall career record of 248-146 in 37 seasons that also included stops at five other schools.
Cross is expected to be the offensive coordinator and work specifically with the offensive line.
"We had some injuries (last season), but no excuses," Aiello said. "We have a lot of kids learning a lot of positions. It was terrible to lose some of the kids we lost, so it's been about how we create the most amount of depth. We've got guys competing to learn a position. We've got to find a way to finish. A big thing we've focused on in the offseason is just being consistent in our preparation, our attention to detail."
Newark Catholic has gone from a Division VI program to one that will compete in Division VII, Region 27. Maysville, a Division III program, has been replaced on the schedule by Edon, which went 7-3 last fall but competed in Division VII, Region 26.
Another addition to the schedule is Paint Valley, which went 11-1 and competes in Division VI, Region 24 and replaces an Attica Seneca East team that went 12-2 and also competes in Division VI.
"At this point last year, we were still getting to know the kids' first and last names," Aiello said. "After watching our incoming freshmen, from top to bottom we know our team a lot better and know what our strengths and weaknesses are to be able to put these kids in a position to be successful."
One of the Green Wave's top offensive threats should be senior running back Derek Hawk, who "feels great to be back on the field" after missing most of last fall with an injury.
His health, along with that of senior quarterback Matt Carlisle, could dictate Newark Catholic's fortunes this fall.
Carlisle began last season as the starter but suffered a torn labrum in a 12-7 loss to Watkins Memorial in week 4. He threw an 18-yard touchdown with 53.5 seconds left in the Green Wave's win over Maysville.
"Things have been really good," Carlisle said. "I was nursing my arm back to health and getting ready for my senior year. The team's been training all offseason, just trying to stay consistent and trying to progress and get really rolling."
Carlisle's backups are sophomore Shae Mummey, who saw action in a 34-3 victory over Utica last season, and sophomore Cole Canter, who was a backup quarterback at Ready under Cross before transferring during the offseason.
Newark Catholic likely will show a mix of one- and two-back sets, with senior Keegan Gallagher and junior Drew Hess also seeing significant action along with Hawk, who Aiello calls a "very intelligent football player."
Senior Slater Evans has impressed Aiello with his route-running abilities and should lead the wide receiver corps.
Senior Griffin Helms and sophomore Chance Brooks will see action at tight end or H-back, depending on the formation.
Senior tackle Nate Williams and senior guard Tyler Clark will lead an offensive line that also should include senior Zach Green, another who battled injuries last season.
According to Aiello, senior Michael Snider and sophomores Chance Brooks, Sam Muetzel and Cole Sherburne will split the playing time at linebacker in what will resemble a 4-2-5 set.
On the line, Hess and junior David Roshon are at end with Williams and junior Paul Jewett on the inside.
Evans and Mummey likely will line up at cornerback, with junior Ryan Poly and Gallagher at safety.
Newark Catholic closed last season with one of its best defensive performances in a 38-9 victory over Northridge.
"We've got some holes to fill from some of the young men we lost last year, but another year in a similar style system is going to help us," Aiello said. "They understand what we're trying to create, the physicality we must have. I definitely see an opportunity grow."
Junior Ryan Auer is the returning kicker.
Hawk, who won the punting job heading into last season, again is among those who could fill that role along with Brooks and Canter. Hawk also should be among the kickoff and punt return units.
Muetzel is taking over at long snapper for Connor Roesink, who transferred to Lakewood.
Quarterbacks: *Matt Carlisle (sr., 6-3, 193), Cole Canter (so., 6-3, 183), Shae Mummey (so, 5-10, 181)
Running backs: *Derek Hawk (sr., 5-10, 181), Keegan Gallagher (sr., 5-10, 181), Drew Hess (jr., 6-2, 180)
Receivers: *Brandon Buchanan (so., 6-2, 182), *Slater Evans (sr., 5-6, 130), Tanner Elwell (so., 5-5, 154), Mummey, Ryan Poly (jr., 6-0, 186)
H-Back/tight ends: *Griffin Helms (sr., 5-11, 188), Chance Brooks (so., 6-1, 180)
Linemen: *Tyler Clark (sr., 5-8, 190),*Nate Williams (sr., 6-5, 300), Games Claggett (jr., 5-11, 252), Daniel Gray (so., 6-1, 226), Zach Green (sr., 5-10, 228), Ed Jewett (sr., 5-8, 158), David Roshon (jr., 6-1, 216), Michael Snider (sr., 5-10, 183)
Linemen: *Hess, *Paul Jewett (jr., 5-10, 195), *Roshon, *Williams
Linebackers: Chance Brooks (so., 6-1, 180), Buchanan, Matt Kirk (so., 5-9, 148), Sam Muetzel (so., 5-9, 162), Cole Sherburne (so., 5-8, 168), Snider
Secondary: *Evans, *Gallagher, *Mummey, *Poly, Carlisle
Kicker: *Ryan Auer (jr., 6-2, 174)
Punters: Brooks, Canter, Hawk
Returners: *Elwell, *Hawk, Evans
Long snapper: *Muetzel
(*Denotes projected starter)