Millard football is undergoing an identity crisis.
Not that the Eagles don't have the talent to compete. But the team might be too inexperienced to succeed at least right away with only four returning varsity starters.
The Eagles could endure growing pains, a baptism by fire, or both.
"If we play like underclassmen, it could be a long season," Millard coach Marshall Sheriff said. "We are a very young team that is very inexperienced at the varsity level. We do have some fairly good younger kids coming up, but they're still in the younger stages. Most of these kids haven't seen a starting varsity rep."
That is in stark contrast to last season, when the Eagles finished 5-2 in region and advanced to the state quarterfinals before losing to Grand County. Jesse Rhodes and Jeremy Aleman combined for 2,389 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns, while Tanner Slavens threw for nearly 500 yards with six scores.
Each has graduated.
Fortunately, the offensive system is the same throughout the program, which should enable the younger players to come in and contribute. How soon they do is the crucial point. Dayton Komarek, who rushed for 137 yards and one touchdown last season, will see the majority of the carries for the Eagles.
"It's not a matter of X's and O's as much as being mentally ready to step up to the varsity level and compete," Sheriff said. "We don't have to teach a bunch of stuff. They know the base package."
Jeffrey Robison and Austin Wardle are primary targets for new quarterback Skyler Cranney in the passing game. Robison had five touchdowns in his 22 receptions along with 401 yards last season.
Center Nathaniel Wade and guard Erick Alcala return to lead both sides of the line along with Komarek. Alcala made 72 tackles, Wade 66 and Komarek 48 last season. Robison had 41 tackles and seven interceptions at safety.
The Eagles open the season Aug. 23 against visiting Juab.
ASSIGNMENT • Class 2A North
LAST YEAR • 8-3 overall, 5-2 Class 2A North
KEY RETURNER • Dayton Komarek, RB/DL. Senior will have to carry a heavy load on the field and off for inexperienced Eagles. He will be counted on to provide leadership and take underclassmen under his wing.
PLAYER TO WATCH • Logan Robinson, OL/DL. Sophomore is raw, but has plenty of talent and size (240 pounds) to develop into a solid player.
BIGGEST HOLE • Inexperience. Millard has just four returning varsity starters from last season, which could lead to growing pains and baptism by fire. The talent is there, but the majority of the players are untested at varsity level.
NEED TO KNOW • More than anything, the team has developed great chemistry and work ethic. Coach Sheriff is pleased with how well his team has bonded.