Based on national 7-on-7 tournaments, summer performances and their body of work, the recruiting spotlight focused on Glenbard North.
It's time to shift focus.
"Our main focus is getting better as individuals and as a team," said Panthers coach Ryan Wilkens. "Our goal is to get better one day at a time."
Glenbard North already is considered among the better teams in DuPage County if not the state. Senior receiver-defensive back Jace James' Northwestern commitment and Greg Newsome's and Tyrik Henderson's offers obscure the fact that the Panthers return a three-year starting quarterback, a 1,000-yard rusher and a usual assortment of nasty defenders.
It doesn't escape Wilkens that quarterback Shane Conway has developed "continuity" with his receivers. James caught 26 passes last year for 442 yards and 3 touchdowns. Newsome and Henderson will help spread the wealth. On defense James, Newsome and Henderson combined to intercept 12 passes, led by Newsome's 5.
The Panthers will definitely miss graduated three-phase weapon Devion Hodges. Defensively, it's junior Josh Flowers' turn at safety, and at running back Vittorio Tricase returns three prior years of varsity experience, leadership and last year's 1,072 yards rushing with 12 touchdowns.
"It's great to have kids that you tell him something once and he gets it," Wilkens said.
Senior defensive end Chris Noeun made 11 tackles for loss in 2015. Look for D'Myreo Mitchell to impact the line with Kyle Panasewicz and Colin Rosado or join Jayleen Fitzpatrick, Zach Bachara and Anthony Marre at linebacker.
Offensive lines can always use tinkering. Center Joe Perilli and right guard Joe Vazquez are set. Candidates for the remaining spots include Fernando Villarreal, Prince Goodlow, Logan Castillo and Augie Gamez.
"We do a good job on skill positions on both sides of the ball but I'd say our biggest concern right now is going in the right direction with the kids up front," Wilkens said.
-- Dave Oberhelman
Coach: Ryan Wilkens (12th year, 86-37).
2015 record: 7-3, 6-2, second in the DuPage Valley Conference.
Top players: Shane Conway (QB, 6-0, 190, sr.), Jayleen Fitzpatrick (RB, 6-0, 210, jr.), Josh Flowers (DB, 5-10, 165, jr.), Tyrik Henderson (DB, 6-0, 160, jr.), Jace James (WR-DB, 6-1, 195, sr.), D'Myreo Mitchell (RB-LB, 6-0, 215, sr.), Greg Newsome (DB-WR, 6-1, 165, jr.), Chris Noeun (DL, 6-1, 225, sr.), Joe Perilli (OL, 6-0, 230, sr.), Vittorio Tricase (RB, 5-7, 170, sr.), Joe Vazquez (OL, 6-3, 300, jr.).
Fri, 8/26, Glenbard North at Naperville Central, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/2, Waubonsie Valley at Glenbard North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/9, Glenbard North at WW South, 7:30 p.m.
Sat, 9/17, Glenbard North at Thornton, 1 p.m.
Fri, 9/23, Glenbard North at Naperville North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 9/30, Wheaton North at Glenbard North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/7, Lake Park at Glenbard North, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/14, Glenbard North at Metea Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Fri, 10/21, Neuqua Valley at Glenbard North, 7:30 p.m.
One to watch: Week 1
Four straight opening-day losses, and a visit to defending DVC champion Naperville Central looms Week 1 for the Panthers.