To say new Dayton High football coach Tom Eck has inherited a bare cupboard is an understatement.
Only seven players — lineman Brandon Allard, running back-defensive back Mikey Aguilar, wide receiver-defensive back Ethan York, offensive tackle-linebacker Alex Mcjunkin, lineman Colton Cabral, lineman Jeremiah Sermeno and lineman Brad Brenneis — return from last year’s 5-5 senior-laden team that barely missed out on a playoff spot.
It’s a rebuilding year for sure, as Eck relies on a few seniors and a ton of juniors to get the program headed back in the right direction in the tough Division 1A.
And, Eck will get his first real glimpse at his team on Friday night when the Dust Devils, 25 strong, scrimmage Division 2 state champion Yerington.
“It’s definitely different than what I’m used to,” Eck said earlier this week. “We’ll scrimmage Friday with who I have. We have some others who may come out, and we’ll have to get them acclimated and conditioned before the first game. Our numbers are a little lower than what I was hoping for. One of our returners (Russ Alfano) moved away.
“We have a lot of young guys who were on JV last year. The majority of the boys have played together when they were in DYSL.”
Eck will run the triple-option flex offense Paul Johnson ran first at Navy and now runs at Georgia Tech. The offense includes the normal five offensive linemen, two slotbacks, two wide receivers, a fullback and quarterback.
“It’s the best offense when you don’t have big, big offensive linemen,” Eck said.
“It’s quick and nasty. There aren’t a lot of plays to learn. It’s very efficient. It’s a matter of learning the “rules” on each play.”
A pair of juniors — Payton Watson and Blake Fletcher — will battle for the starting spot vacated by Davis Winebarger, who passed for 441 yards last year.
Eck said the No. 2 guy would likely see some action at wide receiver. With a 25-man roster, nearly everybody on the roster will have to be able to be called on to play on both sides of the ball at times. It has become the norm at Dayton because of a lack of numbers.
One thing Eck pointed out is what the quarterbacks do after the snaps is not going to be predetermined. Eck is expecting both quarterbacks to learn the offense well enough to be able to make decisions as the play develops.
Dylan Torgerson, Prescott Jones and Aguilar, who carried five times for 9 yards, will battle for playing time at the two slotback spots.
“The slotback (position) will be by committee,” Eck said.
Jesse Schmidt and Wesley Thompson are fighting for the fullback spot. Eck said the duo is neck and neck right now.
Junior Tyler Candler, York and either Fletcher or Watson will man the receiver slots.
Seniors Mcjunkin and Brenneis are at tackle, while Cabral, another senior, starts at center. Sermeno and sophomore Troy Olsen are manning the starting guard spots right now.
“Most of our seniors are on the lines,” Eck said. “Nice to have that kind of leadership up front. Olsen is a great kid. He has shown up pretty much every day.”
On defense, Eck will go with a 4-4 base, but he will want the unit to be versatile enough to play a 5-3-3 if needed.
David Hernandez and Allard anchor the line at tackle, while the defensive end spot is still being sorted out.
Schmidt, Fletcher and Thompson have nailed down starting spots at linebacker thus far, and the fourth spot is up for grabs.
Torgerson, Aguilar (13 tackles last year) and C.J. Willhite are the starters (so far) in the secondary. Willhite was just cleared to play, according to Eck.
Dayton opens the 2015 season at 7 p.m. tonight at Lovelock.