Mulvane returns seven defensive starters, which sounds nice but is practically proof that anything short of 11 can make a coach uneasy.
The three seniors the Wildcats must replace – one player transferred during the summer – were arguably their three best defensive players, giving coach Dave Fennewald more questions than he would like regarding a unit that returns almost in-tact.
“The kids we lost were very, very important to our defense,” Fennewald said. “So we’ve got some holes to fill.”
One positive for Mulvane, perhaps, is that Fennewald doesn’t mention returning starters as those who need to enhance their play to make up for key departures. Players such as defensive back Blake Wilson and linebacker Logan Elliot are not finished products, but they’re known commodities with a smaller range of expected production.
Fennewald instead discusses the importance of improvement of previous reserves and highlights the search for a nose guard to replace Riley Rahe, which includes shifting some offensive linemen to defense.
The defense may just rely on the creation of new stars, with Wilson, Elliott and lineman James Chancellor the most likely candidates.
“The defense is looking pretty good,” safety Brent Cusick said. “We have (seven) returning starters, and the kids filling (those positions) have been working hard in the weight room and have been coming together as a team really well.”
Some offensive linemen are expendable to the defense because Mulvane is stocked at the position. It’s the opposite at skill positions, where the Wildcats are overseeing a quarterback competition and have one returning starter, receiver Ethan Evans.
Linemen, though, may provide a more stable foundation for an offense looking to blossom.
“I’ll take O-linemen all the time,” Fennewald said. “We can build around that, we can be patient with our skill players and develop them as the season goes.”