Progress Report: Kaneland looks to build around veteran lines

1 of 2

With a fall season not happening – or at least extremely unlikely – Kaneland coach Pat Ryan said the predicament is obviously bad for seniors trying to find their way into a college scholarship.

But Ryan also saw the upside for players like Sam Pryor, an offensive and defensive lineman for the Knights.

"I think for guys like Sam, that their senior football season was going to make a difference whether they were going to be a scholarship kid or not, I'm concerned this might be setting them back a little bit with that," Ryan said. "But at the same time, it may open new doors with the delay. We're still five months out being able to play a game, and that's five months being able to work. A guy like Sam is going to continue to work."

Ryan said college coaches also have to be nimble.

"I think the college coaches have to adjust to that there are kids out there on their boards for recruiting, and they have to wait to see what they do their senior year," Ryan said.

Ryan said the Knights are going to use most of their contact days in October, as each program in the state will get 20 days in the fall to help prepare for when the season starts in February.

"We had some stuff in July and I feel like the kids responded well," Ryan said. "We felt like they were taking advantage of the opportunity to get back out there and get some work in. We may be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel to be able to play in the spring. Kids are finding ways to stay active and get some work done even though we can't get much done here at school."

Head coach: Pat Ryan

Last year's record: 8-3

Biggest Question

It's not a question that has happened a lot at Kaneland. But this year, who is going to be the quarterback?

"That's an excellent question," Ryan said. "We don't know. It's the first time in my time here at Kaneland that I don't think we're going into the season with - a couple years we had a quarterback competition. We knew it was going to be one of those two guys. This year we have three or four guys."

Not that there haven't been quarterback battles - a few years ago Joe Smith and Connor Buyck had a fierce battle for the preseason spot, with Smith coming out on top and starting a two-year career as the starter.

This year, Ryan said there are three main competitors for the spot - junior Cole Pugh, sophomore Johnny Spallasso and sophomore Lane Robinson.

Players to Watch

Pryor is obviously a big presence at right guard and defensive tackle for the Knights and was all-state on the offensive line last year.

"He's the kind of kid where he plays most of the game on the line," Ryan said. "You don't find so many kids like that anymore. He's a very good player on both sides of the ball."

But Ryan said both lines are a strength, with four returning starters on the offensive side. Senior John Davis is back at right tackle, Miles Ripper is back for his senior year at left guard, and senior Justin Jamrowski is back at left tackle.

Davis will also play nose tackle, and while Garrison Trebolo didn't start last year as a junior, he saw a lot of playing time at defensive end.

"The big thing is going to be our offensive line," Ryan said. "We have an all-state player coming back in Sam, but then we have three offensive linemen coming back as well."

Ryan said he also liked the experience coming back at both linebacker and running back. Senior Erik Teran will be back at middle linebacker. At running back, Evan Hogan is back after getting a lot of playing time late in the year.

Newcomers You Need to Know

Again in an unfamiliar position for the Knights, it's the skill players that are young and inexperienced.

But Ryan said there are three transfers that should have a big impact on the team. Jackson Certa comes from Aurora Christian and will play outside linebacker and running back. Defensive back Anthony Clevenger also comes from Aurora Christian, and Colby Metcalf comes from Aurora Central Catholic and will be a wide receiver, tight end-type hybrid, Ryan said.

"I think they are going to be impact players for us," Ryan said. "They make us a better football team by walking in the door."

It's a similar situation to last year when Tommy Shaw, Ian Diehl and Ethan Feiza had an impact for the Knights. Though they weren't transfers, they were first-year players that decided to come out and then made an impact.

"It's been good for us," Ryan said. "It's kind of a weird thing. We always seem to at Kaneland get a few kids who come out, a kid who has never played for us before or transfer. Like last year we had three guys who never played before, they weren't transfers but they had never played before. They were just good athletes and were impact players for us.

"I said last year Christmas came early," he said. "This year we'll get a belated Christmas gift I guess."

Schedule Analysis

The schedule is kind of influx. But if it ends up being a seven-game schedule, it would make sense for the Interstate Eight to play a conference-only schedule.

Ryan said if that happens, the Knights would lose their game against Geneva, as the teams have renewed their geographic rivalry over the past few years.

"We kind of revived that rivalry with Geneva, too," Ryan said. "It looks like that game might not happen this year. They're kind of our neighbors. It's been a fun game the last few years. I don't know. It's going to be a much different feel this year for sure."

If it ends up being a conference-only schedule, and the schedule mirrors last year's, the Knights would open with a trip to defending conference champ Sycamore.

An Early Take

In a normal year, the Knights would probably be eyeing that Sycamore game, which would have been played a few weeks ago, as a key stepping point for another extended playoff run. They picked up a playoff win last year against Crystal Lake Central before losing at Lake Forest. Whatever the postseason looks like in the spring, even if there is one, will factor in the Knights in one way or another.