MORGANTOWN - University coach John Kelley knows he has a good team. The problem is he knows the 10 teams on the Hawks' schedule are pretty good, too.
''I think (Wheeling) Park is going to be good,'' he said. ''Brooke should be very improved. Obviously, Morgantown is good. Parkersburg South, with their new coach, they're going to be very good. The guy at John Marshall has been there two years and he's really straightened things around. I don't think anybody is going to be able to go undefeated. It'll be a war week-to-week.''
Three weeks in particular that already have Kelley nervous are consecutive trips to the Ohio Valley where the Hawks will face Wheeling Park in Week 3 and then will head to Brooke in Week 4 to take on the Bruins. University will return home in Week 5 where Parkersburg South will be waiting.
''Back-to-back trips to the valley, that's tough.'' Kelley noted. ''Those three games will really define our season. Last year, we came out of there 3-0. Right there is going to tell you if you're in the playoff hunt or not because you're playing three pretty good programs right in the middle of the season.''
One thing on the Hawks' side is the return of 24 lettermen.
''We have a very experienced team coming back,'' Kelley said. ''We have some pretty talented kids.''
On offense, it starts with senior quarterback Travis Renner (6-foot, 175 pounds), who enters his second year starting behind center.
''Renner will be the guy who pulls the trigger,'' Kelley said. ''He's pretty good.''
Other quarterbacks that will see game action will be junior Jeremy Eckles (5-11, 190), freshman Geoff Hamperian (6-1, 145) and senior Jack Armstrong (6-1, 165), who, according to Kelley, can play about nine different positions on the field.
The University backfield will also be loaded with experience.
''We won't have a true feature back,'' Kelley said. ''It'll be by committee. But there's three talented kids in there.''
Junior Jace Neville (5-6, 162) is ''a very speedy back'' who, along with fellow juniors Michael Ramsey (5-7, 149), Dylan Cole (5-6, 163) and senior R.J. Martin (6-0, 208), will rotate at running back, while senior Tyler Piktel (5-8, 212) will serve as the fullback.
Other backs on the roster include senior Anthony Frisco (5-8, 190), junior Jeremy Hunter (5-10, 190), sophomore Owen Lillard (6-0, 190), freshman Isaiah Utt (6-2, 236), Saviour McDonald (5-7, 133), Tristan Wilburn (6-0, 147), and Adam Frisco (5-7, 170).
One aspect of camp that came as a pleasant surprise to Kelley is the return of some offensive linemen.
''I didn't think we had a lot returning, but we do. We're going to be pretty big up front,'' he said.
Senior Nick Fisher (5-9, 205) will start at right guard, while fellow senior Clint Arbaugh (6-3, 250) will start at right tackle. Senior Nick Lambert (6-1, 236) will handle center duties with junior Scott Dixon (5-11, 268) and senior Jeff Headley (6-2, 285) also having a chance to start.
Senior Paul Gabriel (5-11, 264), junior Casey Summers (5-10, 170), Matthew Minard (6-0, 220), Justin Harwood (6-3, 265), Derrick McElroy (6-0, 268), sophomore Thomas Wallace (5-10, 210), Lucas Cole (6-1, 250), freshmen Mason Glover (6-1, 206), Sean Hamrick (5-7, 141), Devon Hartshorn (6-0, 202), Christian Gaul (5-10, 147), Jarrett Metz (5-9, 147), Zack Martin (5-10, 237) and Grant Gardner (5-11, 212) will provide depth on both sides of the line.
''We have a lot of two-way players,'' Kelley noted. ''I don't know what a bunch is, but it's more than I like. But at the same time, if you're going to be good, you have to do that. I'd say about half will go two ways. That's just the way it is. We don't have that big of a squad. I do think we can spell them a good bit to give them a break here and there and not really fall off too much.''
Tony Richardson (6-3, 210) will provide both blocking and receiving skills during his senior year at tight end. He'll also be chasing down the ball carrier from his defense end spot where he earned all-state honors in 2012.
Tight ends also on the roster that will backup Richardson include junior Jake Mullett (6-0, 164) and freshmen Jordan Hamlin (5-9, 138) and Jared Wilkins (5-10, 155).
Richardson along with Armstrong will be the Hawks' top receivers.
Seniors Andrew Frisco (5-9, 156), Stratton Spirou (5-7, 150), Tevin Dixon (5-9, 140), and John Moore (6-0, 190) will also see playing time, while juniors Tristan Lucas (5-11, 165), Garrett Savage (5-9, 166), sophomores Colin Molnar (5-8, 125), Kaleb Jennings (5-10, 147), Nathan Metheny (5-11, 150), and freshmen Jordan Hamlin (5-9, 138), Rocky Bogden (5-8, 130), and Aaron Flowers (5-10, 144) will provide the Hawks depth.
While the offense seems to know who is starting where, the defense is still up in the air.
''It's a little bit unsettled right now,'' Kelley said during camp. ''I know we've got some guys that can play, but I just don't know where.''
Kelley does know that Armstrong will return to his starting safety spot and Spirou and Neville will each handle corner duties.
At linebacker, the Hawks will have Eckels in the middle alongside Lambert, but the outside spots are still up for grabs as is the defensive end position opposite of Richardson.
''I think we're a playoff team,'' Kelley said. ''If we can get over that hump with those three games in the middle and get past Morgantown, we can be in the Top 5. In this AAA (division) I think people are going to beat the hell out of each other. I think there are several teams on our schedule that could make the playoffs.''
Kelley will be assisted by John Trivonovich, Eric Snyder, Brandon Tate, Jeremy Zeiders, Devon Smith and Brain Eanes.
Clint Arbaugh, Jack Armstrong, Tevin Dixon, Nicholas Fisher, Anthony Frisco, Andrew Frisco, Jeff Headley, Paul Gabriel, Billy Kinney, Nick Lambert, R.J. Martin, John Moore, Tyler Piktel, Travis Renner, Tony Richardson, Stratton Spirou.
Dylan Cole, Scott Dixon, Jeremy Eckles, Justin Harwood, Jeremy Hunter, Tristan Lucas, Derrick McElroy, Mattew Minard, Jake Mullett, Jace Neville, Mitch Phillips, Michael Ramsey, Holden Talton, Garrett Savage, Tyler Stouffer, Casey Summers.
Lucas Cole, Kaleb Jennings, Owen Lillard, Nathan Metheny, Colin Molnar, Hunter Peddicord, Thomas Wallace.
Rocky Bogden, Aaron Flowers Adam Frisco, Grant Gardner, Christian Gaul, Mason Glover, Jordan Hamlin, Geoff Hamperian, Sean Hamrick, Devon Hartshorn, Zack Martin, Saviour McDonald, Jarrett Metz, Peyton Powroznik, Burke Stachurski, Isaiah Utt, Jared Wilkins, Tristan Wilburn .