Springfield football made it to Week 11 last season. The Wildcats want to go deeper into the playoffs this fall, but first they have to put in the work this summer.
Here are five things to know about coach Maurice Douglass’ team after we visited the Wildcats during a summer practice session:
1. They should be deeper this year.
Douglass hoped making the playoffs in his third season at the helm would pay off with more kids going out for the team.
That has come to pass.
The coach said an additional 12-15 players from the sophomore, junior and seniors classes have been participating in offseason workouts who did not play in 2016. That could particularly pay dividends on the offensive and defensive lines, where Springfield was outmatched against some of its tougher opponents last season.
After fielding a squad of 61 last season, Douglass expects to have closer to 80 players this season (not counting freshmen).
2. There will be a new quarterback.
Leonard Taylor was quite a sight taking snaps as a 6-5, 260-pound quarterback last season.
He provided stability at the position in the second half of the year after throwing a game-winning hail mary touchdown pass in the closing seconds against Centerville, but Douglass expects someone else to take the snaps this season.
Senior Tyler Carter and sophomore Kendrick Holt (who started two games last season but threw too many interceptions) are going to compete for the job with Diante Lesperance potentially in the mix as well.
Lesperance is a senior who sat out last season after transferring from Wayne.
3. Bigger things in store for a smaller Taylor?
Although Taylor did an admirable job under center, the team should benefit from its best player being able to concentrate on playing tight end and defensive end instead of learning the finer points of the quarterback position.
For his part, Taylor said he is happy to help the team any way he can.
A four-star prospect, he has slimmed down to about 240 pounds in the offseason as he continues to go through the recruiting process.
Tennessee, Wisconsin, Penn State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan and Kentucky are among the schools he is still considering.
4. Who will replace Danny Davis?
Many familiar faces return from last year’s playoff team, but Danny Davis is not one of them. The Wisconsin signee was the team’s biggest offensive threat, leading the 7-4 Wildcats in rushing (1,200 yards) and receiving (470 yards on 20 catches).
Douglass named a variety of candidates to pick up the playmaking slack, including Mike Brown, Nico Jones, Will Finch, Lesperance and Trotwood-Madison transfer Caleb Johnson.
Tavion Smoot, a 235-pound sophomore, is one to watch at running back for the Wildcats.
5. There are college recruits galore.
Taylor is the highest-profile college football prospect on the Springfield roster, but he is far from the only one.
Linebacker Cameron Hoelscher has 10 offers, including Kentucky, while a couple of Big Ten teams (Purdue and Rutgers) could be close to offering.
Johnson has offers from Bowling Green, Toledo, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Akron, Kent State, EKU and Indiana State while Illinois, Purdue and Kentucky have also shown interest.
Lesperance said Cincinnati is among schools waiting to see how his senior season goes while Douglass said senior defensive back Quincy Scott is also on college radars.
Defensive back Moses Douglass (the coach’s son) and defensive tackle Isaiah Gibson give Springfield a pair of prospects getting major interest in the class of 2019, too.