Injuries and a small senior class gave Libertyville a numbers problem last year.
The Wildcats' lack of depth was a big reason they could muster just a 4-5 record.
"We had 46, 48 guys on varsity last year and we fought that all season," said Libertyville coach Mike Jones, who had to play at least five players both ways last season. "That won't be an issue for us this year. I'm excited about our depth."
Jones excitedly counts 73 players on the varsity this season. A big junior class joins a senior class that returns every player from last year. Libertyville is also healthy so far.
"We're hoping we can stay healthy," Jones said. "On top of the low numbers last year, the injuries were really tough. In nine games, we had nine different starting offensive lines. Things like that made it so difficult to be consistent."
Now, the Wildcats' boast an experienced offensive line with the return of Konnor McKormack, Atakan Pekpolat and Sean O'Malley, who started last year as a sophomore.
They'll be providing protection for junior quarterback Riley Lees, who will have the freedom to make decisions on the fly. Lees can be effective both running or passing the football.
"He's got the keys to the car, so to speak," Jones said of Lees. "He's got permission to do everything. He's an athletic quarterback and we're really excited about him. He just wants to win."
Lees has a trio of exciting wide receivers to look for in returners Jake Mansfield and Nick Rossetti and newcomer Henry Schmidt.
Meanwhile, veteran running back Sean Ferraro and less experienced backs Taylor Rossmann, Noah Moderwell and Tony Graf will all have opportunities in the backfield.
"The thing I like about our offense is that we can stretch a defense both vertically and horizontally," Jones said. "At running back, we have unprecedented depth. There are four guys we can put in there at any time. They'll all have opportunities."
Defensively, Jones welcomes back seven starters, including a couple of monster ends in Ben Kimpler (6-foot-6, 205 pounds) and Jordan McInerney (6-foot-5, 210 pounds). The height continues for Libertyville with 6-foot-5 tackle Matt Dunsing and 6-foot-4 linebacker Kyle O'Malley.
"That's kind of scary for an offense," Jones said of his big, long defense. "We're hoping to knock down a lot of footballs."
The Wildcats will also need to knock down a few more opponents this year to get to the postseason. None of their wins last season came against teams with winning records.
"Our guys have high expectations for themselves," Jones said. "We didn't play well in Week 1 last year and I think it's really how you start in that opener. It's important that we get off to a good start this year."