As football head coach Scot Ruggles enters his second year at the helm, his first challenge is to jump start the teams rebuilding process. Entering this season, several position battles took place to fill the starting jobs left by what players say was one of the most talented senior classes in school history.
“It’s kind of hard to compare, we are very different teams,” guard Andrew Park ’15 said. “I think we are definitely younger though.”
Starters at 10 positions graduated this past year, resulting in more playing time for younger players, including at the quarterback position.
The departure of Chad Kanoff ’13, who led the team with 3421 passing yards last season, leaves Ruggles with a decision he did not have to make in his first season, choosing who will start under center for the Wolverines.
“We have Albert Choi who will be a junior and Marshal Cohen ‘16,” Ruggles said. “One of those guys will line up and be the quarterback against Loyola. They’ve got big shoes to fill, but each one brings their own unique style to the quarterback position and I think whoever wins that job will put us in a position to be successful.”
Although Ruggles remains undecided as of press time, players believe Cohen will enter the team’s first game Aug. 30 against Loyola, despite Choi’s experience in the system, serving as Kanoff’s main backup last season.
Cohen has been practicing with the first team more than Choi as summer practices come to a close.
“I’m feeling really good about the upcoming season, but my teammates and I would agree that there is always room for improvements,” Cohen said.
Although Cohen is expected to lead an offense similar to the one that Kanoff ran last season under Ruggles, players say his play-style should not be compared to that of the former Big Red Male Athlete of the Year.
“Marshal is a more active quarterback,” left tackle Ben Klein ’14 said. “He’s more willing to run, which provides two threats for the defense to cover.”
Cohen attended Brentwood School for his freshman year, leading the Eagles to an undefeated season at the junior varsity level. Despite entering his first year on varsity, Cohen says he is up to the challenge of stepping into the starting role on varsity.
“Stepping into Chad’s shoes will take time, just like it took him time to become the great quarterback he is,” Cohen said. “I think the only way people will be able to compare Chad and I is through wins and losses. I have an opportunity to do great things like Chad over the course of the next three years. However my main goal is winning games, not filling anyone’s shoes.”
Choi, who presents more of a threat in the passing game, attempted only three passes last season as a backup.
The teams will also need to replace their top two wide receivers and their top two linemen. Captains Davey Hartmeier ’14 and Julian Shabahang ’14 will look to increase their roles, with Hartmeier moving from right tackle to center and Shabahang taking over as the team’s number one receiver.
The teams first two tests are against top tier opponents, said players.
“We’re scrimmaging Oaks Christian, and Notre Dame this Friday, which will definitely help us prepare,” nose gaurd Noah Pompan ’14 said. “Those two are top teams in the area and are nationally recognized programs.”
Ruggles, who led the team to its first playoff appearance in three years, said he personally has no expectations for the season, but players say they hope to improve on last years disappointing finish, losing in the first round of CIF playoffs.
“We are going to be young, there’s no surprise there, but sometimes to me being young isn’t a bad thing,” Ruggles said. “I think we’ve got a good group of kids this year that are working real hard and we will see sooner or later if the hard work has paid off.”