There will be mistakes, Dundee-Crown coach Mike Steinhaus knows.
There will be teachable moments when players will need to adapt on the fly to scenarios they haven't practiced against yet.
There are bound to be growing pains.
That's what comes with youth movements like the one D-C is undergoing. Since Steinhaus took over four years ago, the current senior class has been the smallest to move through the program in years. The Chargers return eight seniors overall, only three with varsity playing experience.
"We are very young, which keeps me young because we have to go back to teaching some basics," said Steinhaus, a D-C graduate who played tight end at Ball State. "There are going to be mistakes and things like that but you can see some potential there."
An area of strength is the defensive line, where nose guard Isiah Ziegler returns. A heavyweight wrestler, the 5-foot-11, 280-pound senior is a nice guy off the field who instantly develops a nasty streak when he steps between the lines, according to his coach. Rotating at nose guard is senior Ryan Griggel (5-11, 300). They are joined by returning junior lineman Gabe Kurzynski (6-2, 250).
All linebackers and most of the secondary are new with the exception of junior corner Damarion Butler (5-10, 147), who saw playing time as a sophomore.
Offensively, the only true returnee is junior running back Ricky Ibarra (5-10, 178). As a sophomore Ibarra rushed for 412 yards and 5 touchdowns on 76 carries (5.4 avg.).
Taking over at quarterback is Josh Raby, a 6-4, 175-pound junior. Raby was set to quarterback the sophomores last fall but broke his collarbone early in the first game and missed the rest of the season. Steinhaus calls him "a smart kid" and says he expects Raby to "make plays and make the right ones."
Junior Ryan Lascano (5-10, 156) is expected to make an impact at running back and safety, while junior linebacker Matt Shydlowski (5-7, 170) brings energy to every practice, according to his coach.
The Chargers get a key player back from injury. Tommy Warner (6-1, 200) was set to play linebacker and guard last year but an ACL tear in the preseason scrimmage ended his junior campaign. He'll contribute on both sides of the ball.
Dundee-Crown faces a Fox Valley Conference schedule that includes five playoff teams from a year ago, including defending Class 6A champion Prairie Ridge and three state quarterfinalists.
"I'm optimistic," Steinhaus said. "I know our conference is a meat grinder, but all we can do is worry about ourselves and improve every day. I think we have a group that will be able to do some things. We have some athletic ability. Now, it's about making them into football players. It's just a matter of us putting it together mentally and playing with the intensity and urgency you need to be good at football."