If you're a member of the Burlington Central varsity football team, chances are you're going to see the field at some point this season.
Third-year coach Rich Crabel has plenty of options as he and his staff try to determine which players will play which positions in which scenario, particularly the skill positions. The Rockets brought 32 players to their Saturday passing league this summer, not counting two centers.
Crabel said fans could see "six, eight, 10 running backs and receivers playing for us on any given night." He also said the Rockets could play up to six different tight ends, four fullbacks, six to eight players on the defensive line and between eight and 10 cornerbacks.
"We have a lot of skill kids that we're rotating in and out, a lot of different kids that are catching balls for us," Crabel said. "We really try to do that on the offensive side. That's how you get kids out and that's how you keep kids out. So we have a lot of different personnel packages, trying to get kids into that rotation."
There is no question who will play quarterback. Casey Matthews took that job over late last season after starter Ryan Ritchie was injured for a second time. He completed 12 of 28 attempts for 119 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted 5 times. His coach said Matthews "had a very productive summer." The 6-foot, 180-pound senior will play both ways. Matthews also starts at safety. He picked off 3 passes as a junior.
The running backs are led by senior Reilly Marino (6-0, 195). He paced Central as a junior with 651 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns on 115 carries (5.7 avg.).
Trevor Davison gained varsity experience as a sophomore, when he carried 81 times for 381 yards and 5 touchdowns (4.7 avg.), but the Rockets have added new wrinkles that could have the junior lining up at multiple spots, according to his coach. Davison also caught 7 balls for 104 yards last season.
Another target for Matthews is 6-foot-2 senior Ian Napiorkowski, who has been catching the ball well in practice, Crabel said. Senior Victorius Almasi (6-2) moves from guard to tight end this season.
The offensive line is a question mark. The Rockets return no starters. Michael Kielhack (5-9, 210) saw the most action of any returning player and is expected to start. Though Crabel is reluctant to play linemen both ways, a couple may have to double up, he said.
"We don't have any D-I looking kids anywhere on the field, but we have some kids who've worked pretty hard and are doing the things we want to do in our system," Crabel said of the offense. "I think we should be very balanced throwing and running the ball, but that's going to be determined by how we develop up front."
The defense should be solid, led by three returning linebackers. Junior Cole Roach (5-10, 200) returns for his second season at middle linebacker. Fellow junior Craig Kein (6-0, 180) likewise returns on the outside, as does Marino. Three more linebackers from a deep junior class are ready to spell Marino, who will handle the bulk of the carries at tailback.
Senior Kyle Coffland saw significant time at safety last season and joins Matthews in the secondary as a starter. Jeremy Esin is one of the few defensive lineman with any varsity experience.
The Rockets possess speed and height at a few key positions, but team size is lacking overall. Do they have enough to improve on last year's 5-4 record, which fell just short of a playoff berth on points?
"We will probably be the smallest team on the field every week. I don't know that will be bigger than anyone," Crabel said. "But the weight room is our equalizer. That and we just have kids who buy in and work really hard. That gives us a chance to be successful."