No need for St. Francis coach Greg Purnell to explain Wing-T blocking to his linemen. They've all heard it before.
Josh Croci, James Kalfas, Peter Quirk, Alex Napoli, Robert Dwyer, Patrick O'Connell, Ryan O'Kasick, tight end Jack Webb and Michigan-bound, all-state left tackle Kyle Bosch, the fourth-rated senior by EdgyTim/Rivals.com, all either started or played on the line last season.
"The running backs look good," Purnell said of preseason work, "but they're getting some great holes because we've got an outstanding offensive line and, consequently, I think we have a great defensive line, too. Those are the strengths."
The Spartans would be stronger had honorable-mention all-state running back-linebacker Jack Petrando, 2011 co-offensive player of the year in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division, not torn an MCL in July. Petrando ran for 1,437 yards and 17 touchdowns and made 96 tackles to lead the team a second straight year. He hopes for a late-season return.
As it is the offense has backs such as Alex Alcantara, Chris Smith, sophomore T.J. Jackson and Dan Beck, who returns 466 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.
New starting quarterback Michael Robinson will run some keepers as well. He's the younger brother of former Spartans receiver Brett Robinson off St. Francis' 2008 Class 5A champions. His line should provide time to find receivers such as Andrew Brundage, Michael Hanson and tight end Jack Rowan. Last year the Spartans ran for 2,873 yards and passed for 766; more balance is sought.
Several players will flip over to the 3-5 defense, where Croci returns 46 tackles from last season, Rowan 40 at linebacker. Hanson picked off 4 passes, and Purnell likes how linebackers Colin Baumgartner and Kyle Wedoff look.
It's a tough haul in the SCC Blue, but that's nothing St. Francis' bevy of returners doesn't know.
"We never talk about wins," Purnell said. "We just talk about improving or getting better than we were the day before."
-- Dave Oberhelman
Coach: Greg Purnell (sixth year, 37-17; 28th overall, 193-81).
2009 record: 8-3, 3-2, third in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division.
Top players: Alex Alcantara (RB-DB, 5-7, 160, Sr.), Dan Beck (WR-LB, 6-0, 180, Sr.), Kyle Bosch (OL-DL, 6-6, 315, Sr.), Josh Croci (OL-DL, 6-0, 195, Sr.), Robert Dwyer (OL-DL, 6-4, 280, Sr.), Michael Hanson (WR-DB, 6-0, 180, Sr.), Peter Quirk (OL-DL, 6-1, 230, Sr.), Jack Rowan (TE-DL, 6-2, 210, Sr.).
Fri, 8/24, St. Francis at Riverside-Brookfield, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 8/31, Vernon Hills at St. Francis (College of DuPage), 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/7, Chicago Christian at St. Francis (College of DuPage), 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/14, Montini at St. Francis (College of DuPage), 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/21, St. Francis at Aurora Christian, 7 p.m.
Fri, 9/28, Marian Central Catholic at St. Francis (College of DuPage), 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/5, Marmion at St. Francis (College of DuPage), 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 10/13, St. Francis at Guerin, 1 p.m.
Fri, 10/19, St. Francis at St. Edward, 7 p.m.