ALLIANCE AVIATORS

HEAD COACH: Seth Whiting, third year, 14-7

LAST YEAR: 9-2, Division III Region 9 playoff qualifier

POSTSEASON: Division III Region 9

RETURNING LETTERMEN (13):

Name, Pos, Ht, Wt, Yr.

Demarko Brooks, RB/DB, 5-7, 140, Sr.

Cameron Cox, WR-LB, 6-3, 210, Sr.

Cameron Donohoe, RB/LB, 5-8, 215, Sr.

Noah Durst-Hawkins, RB/LB, 5-6, 170, Sr.

Neshawn Gaffney, WR/DB, 5-8, 140, Jr.

Gavin Geier, WR/DB, 6-2, 190, Sr.

Adam Hale, TE/DE, 6-4, 180, Sr.

Micah Hicks, DL, 5-9, 235, Sr.

Jarek Leonard, OL/DL, 6-0, 250, Sr.

Aaron Maley, RB/LB, 5-10, 200, Sr.

Brandon Mazzei, OL/DL, 5-9, 210, Sr.

Nick Oldfield, OL/DL, 6-3, 230, Jr.

Jeff Talbert, WR/ LB, 6-0, 180, Jr.

IMPACT PLAYERS: Demarko Brooks, a wideout last season who was converted to running back, possesses the quickness to be a big-play threat on the perimeter. … Linebackers Cameron Cox, the most experienced returner at his position group, and Aaron Mayle, who was moved from defensive tackle, have demonstrated a nose for the football. Cox has been one of the top tacklers during his previous two years as a starter. While undersized and giving away weight to opposing offensive linemen, Mayle compensated with quickness to record several tackles for loss and sacks last season. … Senior defensive lineman Micah Hicks, who has been sidelined with injuries in each of his first two years, showed strength, quickness and energy to plug gaps and stuff running plays during the three games he played. If he can stay healthy and flash the form he showed during his brief stints in his first two years, Hicks can take a lot of pressure off a young front. … Senior Gavin Geier, who possesses size and speed, can be a big-play pass-catching threat at wideout, filling a similar role to D.J. Hancock (2016) and Tyler Johns (2017). … Juniors Neshawn Gaffney and J'dynn Seals are athletic players who could make the secondary a strong unit. …

WHAT'S NEW: The entire offensive skill group will be different, headed by sophomore quarterbacks Brandon Alexander and Braidyn Hartsoe. The two quarterbacks possess different strengths. … Brooks will get the first crack to fill the running back role occupied the past four years by Duce Johnson, who rushed for more than 2,400 yards last season. … Senior Deyvon Wood and sophomore Andrew Datz are expected to block and catch passes at tight end, a critical position in the offense the last two seasons. … Seniors Jarek Leonard, Jarren Daniels and Justin Daniels, and junior Nick Oldfield are expected to fill four of the five starting offensive line positions. … Senior Cameron Donohoe will fill one of the two inside linebacker positions. … There will be athletic personnel on both units, but this year's group is much extremely less experienced.

OUTLOOK: When a football program graduates 17 seniors, headed by several three- and four-year starters, from a team which soared into the Division III playoffs last fall, the Aviators obviously are transitioning. The challenge for the coaching staff is to find quality starters, develop decent depth and mold the offense, defense and special teams into cohesive units to contend with a brutal non-conference set of opponents: Hubbard, Canfield, Indian Creek and Poland Seminary. During the preseason, the challenge became even greater after injuries to seven projected starters. Junior Daveion Baker, a returning starter at defensive back and one of the seven injured players, suffered a season-ending injury. Baker was considered one of the faster players on the team. Trying to intermix returning injured personnel and inexperienced talent, Alliance will soar into the season as an unknown quantity.

Mike Keating