Last season: 5-5, 2-5 District 4-5A
Key players: OL Maea Teuhema (6-5, 325); DT Bobby Reynolds (6-3, 260); DE Houston Miller (6-4, 235); LB Garrett Blubaugh (6-2, 215); WR Cameron Johnson (6-1, 170)
The big picture: If the Indians are to return to the postseason for the first time since 2009, the defense will likely have a lot to do with it. Coach Carl Stralow, now in his third season at the helm, said this defense should be the best he’s had. Experience abounds with several three-year starters at key positions along the line and at linebacker. Offensively, Keller must replace seven starters, including its leading rusher and its only passer from a year ago. The quarterback position is still up for grabs. Stralow said a handful of prospects offer some different strengths, but he’s hoping one will take control before breaking camp. Junior Tyler Tutt will start the season as the featured back, and Stralow is encouraged by Tutt’s “tremendous” off-season. It should come as no surprise when many of Tutt’s runs go right, since blue-chip offensive tackle Maea Teuhema is one of the best in the country. With a crop of talented receivers led by last year’s 4-5A Newcomer of the Year Cameron Johnson, it figures that the passing game will probably be more prominent than in previous years. Though anchored on one side, the rest of the offensive line will need to come along to protect whoever delivers the passes. Keller has graduated a number of quality offensive linemen in recent years and this group could eventually do the same, but Stralow asserts, “How they progress is how we progress.”
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Quotable: “Our off-season was exponentially better than the last one. I’m really encouraged by how our kids have developed in the weight room and developing physical and mental toughness that’s going to pay dividends this year. … We’ve got several kids on the defensive side that lead by example in their work ethic and how they approach things and how they’ve become seasoned over the last couple of years. There’s nothing that’s going to scare them or freak them out. Nothing will be too big for them.”
— Coach Carl Stralow
“We’re a lot closer as a family. We trust each other more and our work ethic has been phenomenal. This summer we really pushed ourselves in the weight room and on the field. These guys really like to work hard and won’t give up.”
— LB Garrett Blubaugh
Notable: Keller’s two previous freshman classes — those players who are now juniors and sophomores — have gone 8-2 and 7-3.