Upper Arlington coach Jeremey Scally did not want his favorite characteristic of his new team to sound like a negative.
But because Scally still is implementing his own system after coming over from rival Hilliard Davidson to succeed Joel Cutler, he considers one personality trait essential as the Golden Bears' program turns a page.
"The best thing I can say is that they've surprised me in a good way with their attention to detail and their work ethic," Scally said. "They have worked hard from day one. They thrive with structure. They want to know what the answers are. They crave coaching."
While UA is reloading at several positions, the Bears return quarterback Jake Leve, their top two running backs in Eli D'Herete and Chris Schweisthal, three-year starting offensive lineman Sean McRae and two-way threats Shaun DuPont and Liam Keethler -- all of whom are seniors -- from a team that went 5-5 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Central Division amid turmoil in the program.
Cutler missed the final two games after being placed on administrative leave and decided in December not to re-apply for the job. Cutler went 29-21 overall and 14-13 in the league in five years at UA and now is in his second stint at Ready, where he went 19-5 in 2012 and 2013 and led the Silver Knights to a Division VI state semifinal in his final season.
Starting quarterback Sammy Sass suffered a broken collarbone at the end of a Week 5 loss to Lancaster and missed the rest of the season.
Sass, a 2019 graduate, now plays baseball at Wright State.
Scally, who was hired in December, was an assistant coach for 11 of the past 14 seasons at Davidson, most recently coaching quarterbacks.
"We're a really close-knit group," D'Herete said. "We've had great attention to detail and discipline coming into the season, which is exactly what we're going to need going up against some of these great programs we're playing this year."
UA opens Aug. 30 at Reynoldsburg. The Bears' home opener is Sept. 6 against Dayton Belmont, and they begin OCC-Central play Oct. 4 at Westland.
UA finished third in the league last year behind champion Davidson (5-0) and, despite its struggles, still came up just one spot short of the playoffs in Division I, Region 2, finishing ninth in the region.
The Bears have not made the playoffs since 2015.
"We want to make the playoffs, but the main goal is to be league champions," Keethler said. "We have the potential and I think we can, but in the past years, little things didn't get us there."
Leve completed 44 of 91 passes for 469 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions last year and should have plenty of options in both the running and passing games this season.
D'Herete led all UA running backs with 757 yards and eight touchdowns on 155 carries a year ago as well as catching 14 passes for 124 yards and two scores. Schweisthal had 149 carries for 725 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games.
UA lost its top two receivers to graduation in Steven Bair and Josh Rushin, who combined for 49 catches, 669 yards and five touchdowns last year. Keethler made three catches for 37 yards.
"We'll focus on just playing fast and make things happen," Leve said. "I learned last year that I definitely need to stay calm. Varsity is different than (junior varsity), for sure. Guys are faster. You have to stay calm and move on play after play."
McRae, a right tackle, anchors an offensive line that also includes senior left guard Corey Jones and juniors Jack Flowers (center), Brady Orlandini (right guard) and Doug Ryan (left tackle).
Scally acknowledged that UA will depend primarily on the run, something Davidson long has leaned on through the option, but won't forsake the passing game.
"Coach what you know," Scally said. "Details matter. It's not scheme, it's execution of scheme, whether you run Navy's triple option or if you're an air-raid guy. Both work. You have to execute what you believe in. ...
"Philosophically, you'll see some similarities to what we did at Davidson, (but) it might not look exactly the same. We have two A-plus quarterbacks here (Leve and sophomore Sam Monnen) who are coachable and doing what they need to do. But make no mistake, you'd better run the ball to win and you'd better stop the run."
DuPont and Keethler will be among a few players to see time on both sides of the ball, a group that also includes junior tight end and defensive lineman Dominic Chiavaroli.
"A few guys will go both ways, like me, but pretty much everybody is either offense or defense, which helps," said Keethler, who started at receiver as a sophomore and started both ways for the first five games last year before a season-ending knee injury. "Both sides are coming together, competing well against each other and becoming more mature."
Junior linebacker Marco Landolfi is the top returning tackler, having made 42 stops with seven pass breakups last year.
Chiavaroli will be part of a young defensive line that also includes junior end Michael Ballenger and sophomore nose guard/tackle David Adams.
Scally had high praise for a few of his linebackers, including senior Zayne Ritchey and junior Nick Utgard.
"(Utgard) is a culture changer. He's that special," he said. "(Ritchey's) potential is untapped. I think he could be big for us. Marco is a versatile guy we can use in some different places. He's been a free safety and strong safety, so we can move him around if we need to."
UA is reloading on special teams, as it is replacing last year's placekicker and punter.
Scally called sophomore Zac Yoakam the Bears' "clear-cut No. 1" placekicker, while junior Garrett Junk will replace first-team all-state honoree Ben Krimm as punter.
Krimm, who now punts at Pennsylvania and also was a starting linebacker, averaged 40.1 yards per punt.
Last year's placekicker, 2019 graduate Hayden Raish, made 28 of 31 extra-point attempts and three of four field-goal tries.
Quarterbacks: *Jake Leve (sr., 5-11, 178), Simon Monnin (so., 6-0, 152)
Running backs: *Eli D'Herete (sr., 6-0, 192), *Chris Schweisthal (sr., 5-11, 197), Lucas Arce (sr., 5-11, 205), Carson Gresock (so., 5-9, 188)
Receivers: *Shaun DuPont (sr., 5-11, 152), *Liam Keethler (sr., 5-11, 170), Sam Cannon (so., 5-8, 140), Chris Mazzaferri (so., 5-11, 160)
Linemen: *Jack Flowers (jr., 6-3, 252), *Corey Jones (sr., 6-3, 238), *Sean McRae (sr., 6-6, 290), *Brady Orlandini (jr., 5-11, 240), *Doug Ryan (so., 6-3, 220), Joe Hendrix (jr., 5-11, 215), Peter Mimnaugh (jr., 6-0, 257), John Pritchett (so., 6-3, 200), Riley Shimp (so., 6-0, 202)
Tight end: *Colin Moore (jr., 6-1, 215), Dominic Chiavaroli (jr., 6-4, 212), Charlie Van Aman (so., 6-1, 162)
Linemen: *David Adams (so., 6-0, 230), *Michael Ballenger (jr., 6-1, 205), *Chiavaroli, Reece Hurst (jr., 6-1, 215), Jake Pritchett (so., 6-3, 212)
Linebackers: *Marco Landolfi (jr., 5-11, 168), *Zayne Ritchey (sr., 5-11, 185), *Nick Utgard (jr., 6-0, 185), Asher Hamilton (so., 6-1, 180), Chris Reynolds (so., 6-10, 170), Matt Weaver (jr., 5-11, 175)
Secondary: *Adam Cipriano (jr., 6-1, 162), *DuPont, *Keethler, *Shea Keethler (jr., 5-10, 172), Alex Conie (sr., 6-0, 157), Luke Frederick (so., 6-1, 155), Mazzaferri, Jack Purcell (so., 5-10, 160)
Kicker: *Zac Yoakam (so., 5-8, 145), Gabe Haenszel (sr., 5-9, 135), Jake Pemberton (so., 5-4, 155)
Punter: *Garrett Junk (jr., 6-2, 145)
Returners: Cannon, DuPont, Liam Keethler, Sam Keethler, Schweisthal
Long snapper: Jake Pritchett, Edward Shrodes (sr., 6-0, 175)
(*Denotes projected starter)