CHAMPAIGN — A new staff and a new way of doing things is not all that’s different at Champaign Central.
The Maroons have a virtually all-new football team to start the season. The lone full-time starter from 2012 is junior quarterback Jamal Stovall. Senior Nathan Harris played in the line a year ago but has shifted from center to tackle.
Everybody is on the same learning curve.
Head coach Nate Albaugh brought with him an enthusiasm and passion for football and surrounded himself with a coaching staff that holds the same feelings.
“Each guy is on fire and willing to work so hard,” Albaugh said. “The staff morale has carried us through the summer hard work. The kids fed off that, and the attitudes have been great.”
Before the staff could start teaching a new system, it had to learn it.
“Nothing we run was invented by me,” Albaugh said. “There were a lot of learning tools available. It was a spring of studying.”
That was followed by valuable summer time with the squad.
“It was a long period of teaching, and for a long time, the kids didn’t see the reasoning of it,” Albaugh said. “As the kids see how the system works, they’re starting to buy in.”
Central has a promising offensive line, which Albaugh said, “is getting off the ball as well as any group I’ve had.”
Senior Josh Musquez and junior Ryan Baker are guards. Junior Grant Semonin is the center. Harris and one of two seniors — Ricky Herr or Frank Kelly — will be the tackles.
Harris, at 280 pounds, is the biggest player in the unit.
“They’re not big, but they’re really working their tails off and running their feet,” Albaugh said.
On game night, Albaugh will call the offense. The defensive coordinator is Jamal Maatuka. Several years ago, they were on opposite sides of the field.
“My second game as head coach (at Milford/Cissna Park), Jamal was the head coach of the team we played (East Central),” Albaugh said.
Linebackers Brandon Klein and Toby Rivera will rotate as fullbacks. Junior Jalen Rose is a halfback, with Michael Manard and Jaylen Guy slated for duty as wingbacks.
Central won’t be one-dimensional.
“We feel we can make catches,” said Albaugh, who has tight ends Wes Dee and Phillip Swartz at the ready as well as receivers Fraquan Gaines and Davion Watson.
Central opens the season Friday at Normal West.
Albaugh has 24 freshmen and 31 sophomores among his 78 squad members.
The varsity captains are Manard, Musquez, Stovall and free safety Jeremy Bray.
“The kids are slowly but surely getting the hang of how we do things,” he said, “from practicing hard to how much we’re expecting at practice.”