RICHMOND - Edison will be under the guidance of first-year and first-time coach Derrick Stickles this season. Stickles served as an assistant coach at his alma mater Oak Glen in 2012 after spending a few seasons on Edison's staff as an assistant.
The Wildcats will be without 13 seniors who graduated last spring, including the team's leading rusher Chris Graziani. He ran for 829 yards and 11 touchdowns, including a 99-yard TD run against Oak Glen, on a 141 carries.
The Wildcats may have been hard hit by graduation, but they do return a good group of kids, including 15 lettermen. Eight of those are two-year letterwinners in seniors Nolan Marcus, Josh Pasek, Jevin Leggett, Devan Tennant, Dustin Huggins, Matt Coppa, Tyler Stagani and Rich Springer. The one-year lettermen are seniors Storm Allese, Corey George and Jonah Haught, and juniors Carter Andreozzi, Ethan Shannon, Mitchell Wells and Tyler Schmitt.
All told, the Wildcats have 15 seniors on the roster.
"Things are going pretty well," Stickles said. "We are working hard to get better. We want to take care of the small things and we want to pay attention to the details. ... If we do that the big picture will take care of itself."
Led by Marcus at quarterback, the Wildcats will again feature a talented offensive unit.
Stickles has high expectations for this unit.
"I have high expectations all the time," he said. "I want to hold them to a high standard to get the best out of them. Offensively we have had a lot of success running and passing.
''We want to be the type of team that will take what the other teams give week to week. It will depend on who we play to see if we are going to be a primarily passing or running team. I think we have the horses to be able to do that. We have the talent that will help us become well balanced and to adapt to whatever team is coming to town or who we are going to face that week."
Marcus is the latest dual-threat to play quarterback at Edison. Last year, Marcus (5-foot-8, 165 pounds) threw for 1,345 yards with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and he also ran for 633 yards and 10 touchdowns on 132 carries.
"He's the type of kid coaches dream about having around," Stickles said. "I am blessed to have the opportunity to coach him. He does everything right. He brings a lot of excitement to the team. He brings a lot of laughter and he is a laid-back kind of cat.''
Junior Collin Skeeles (5-9, 160) will back up Marcus. Skeeles is more of a pocket passer than Marcus. Sophomore Nick Glenn (5-6, 135) and freshman Dominic Rogers (5-11, 175) are young players who are developing at the position.
Edison has had talented running backs the last two seasons. Shane O'Brien graduated in 2011, and Graziani graduated last year. This year's group is led by Pasek (5-9, 160) and Shannon (5-10, 180).
Leggett (5-9, 200) will be the team's primary fullback, and he will also get opportunities to carry the ball. Glenn could also see time at the position.
An experienced group of receivers return, including Pasek, Springer (6-2, 180) and Tennant (6-1, 175). Last year, Springer recorded 25 receptions for 509 yards and six touchdowns and averaged more than 20 yards per catch.
Seniors Storm Allese (6-0, 200) and Hunter Sweat (5-11, 185) will be the tight ends.
A couple of spots on the offensive line were battled for throughout practice.
Seniors Blaine Cline (6-2, 190), who did not play last season, Stagani (5-9, 250) and Huggins (6-2, 230) will man three of the spots up front. Huggins is expected to be the starting center while Stagani will be a guard, and Cline will be the team's left tackle. Junior Nate VanHorn (5-9, 200), sophomore Collin Scott (6-1, 225) and Wells (5-11, 200) were battling for time.
Edison will be running a 4-2-5 defense.
Like the offense, Stickles has high expectations for his defensive unit.
Cline and Coppa will be the ends, while Legget and Wells will be the tackles. Haught (6-5, 375), along with Huggins, Scott and VanHorn are all expected to see time.
Shannon and Sweat lead the linebacking corp, but Wells and Leggett will also see time at middle linebacker. Schmitt (6-0, 185) and freshman Chris Kosegi (5-5, 150) are also in the mix.
In the secondary, Marcus will serve as one of the team's outside safeties. Glenn, Allese and Tennant will all also see time on the outside. Andreozzi (5-8, 150) will be one of the team's starting cornerbacks and was rated as the No. 1 cornerback at a recent defensive back camp. Pasek is also a cornerback and Springer will be the free safety.
Senior Devin Haese (5-9, 215) is also in the mix in the defensive backfield, though he missed time while attending boot camp. Stickles said Haese would be evaluated upon his return. Another area of focus for Stickles is special teams.
Springer and Pasek are expected to return kicks and punts, and Shannon is also slated to be a kick returner.
Marcus can kick and punt.
Allese will see time in some form. Allese can kick off, and he is also one of the team's top long snappers. Huggins, Stagani and Skeeles can also serve as snappers.
Storm Allese, Blaine Cline, Matt Coppa, Corey George, Devin Hase, Jonah Haught, Dustin Huggins, Jevin Leggett, Nolan Marcus, Neil Moore, Josh Pasek, Rich Springer, Tyler Stagani, Hunter Sweat, Devan Tennant.
Carter Andreozzi, Tyler Bly, Robert Daley, Dustin Dayton, Nick Fisher, Cody Kosegi, Jayce Robinson, Ethan Shannon, Robert Shannon, Russell Shannon, Tyler Schmitt, Collin Skeeles, Nate VanHorn, Mitchell Wells.
Dakota Byron, Nick Glenn, Jay Louks, Andy Matta, Nick Sinicropi, Robert Smith, Colter Whitmore.
Josh Alexander, Mason Balzano, Vincent Bonar, Cole Clutter, Jake Connelly, JT Dillon, Logan Glenn, Mark Johns, Jon Kemmer, Chris Kosegi, Cody McCain, Joe Nave, Cameron Redovian, Dom Rogers, Micheal Speedy, Storm Vincenzo, Cody Westling, Travis Wright.