Quarterback Steve Nelson is one of the higher-profile names returning at Vernon Hills, which hopes to maintain its usual high standards this season.
STEVE LUNDY | Staff Photographer
The roster at Vernon Hills will be missing some big names.
But the Cougars still have the same big goals.
They'll try to again compete for the North Suburban Conference Prairie Division title and advance deep into the playoffs. Only this year, for the first time in four years, they'll have to do so without DaVaris Daniels and Evan Spencer, their two Division I stars who started since freshmen and graduated last spring.
Daniels is now playing football at Notre Dame while Spencer is doing the same at Ohio State.
"Tradition doesn't stop with graduation," Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken said. "We have the same goals we have every year. Even though we might not have the big Division I athletes we had last year, we have a lot of very good athletes who are eager to take it more upon themselves to be the playmakers."
Quarterback Steve Nelson and Jarrett Wood will be two of the biggest playmakers for the Cougars, who went 10-2 last year and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class 5A playoffs.
Nelson started every game on varsity as a sophomore and got plenty of snaps behind starter Chris Argianas last year. Wood started at both running back and linebacker last year.
"Steve is really excited about the opportunity to start again this year and I expect him to do a lot of great things for us," Monken said. "He's stronger and faster and he throws the ball better and he can run the ball, too.
"Wood will be an impact player for us on both sides."
Tyler Alper and Dylan McNamara will also get plenty of touches in the Cougars' option offense, which will be anchored by returning linemen Wayne Didier and Drake Randall.
Didier also started on the defensive line and is one of five starters back on that side of the ball.
Not that starting equaled playing time.
The Cougars' starters didn't always get a ton of minutes last season. With big early leads in many games, Vernon Hills went to its bench early and often.
"Our reserves took a lot of snaps and now those guys will be in key roles," Monken said. "They already know what varsity speed is like so we've been moving through things much faster. They also have game experience and playoff experience.
"We may not have a lot of starters back, but we have a lot of guys back who played and that's important, too."
Pos. Name Ht/Wt Yr.
RB Tyler Alper 5-9/185 Sr.
RB Jarrett Wood 6-3/215 Sr.
RBGrady Skeoch 6-0/180 Sr.
QB Steve Nelson 5-11/180 Sr.
WR Colin Krippinger 6-0/175 Sr.
WR MJ Crowley 5-11/170 Sr.
OT Jeremy Brazil 6-3/290 Sr.
OT Drake Randall 6-4/260 Jr.
OG Wayne Didier 6-0/230 Sr.
OG Chris Lannan 6-1/210 Soph.
C Tim Claussen 6-0/200 Sr.
DL Wayne Didier 6-0/230 Sr.
DL Jeremy Brazil 6-3/290 Sr.
DL Drake Randall 6-4/260 Jr.
LB Jarrett Wood 6-3/215 Sr.
LB Austin Hagen 6-0/180 Sr.
LB Dustin Rusch 6-0/185 Sr.
LB Tyler Alper 5-9/185 Sr.
DB Colin Krippinger 6-0/175 Sr.
DB MJ Crowley 5-11/170 Sr.
DB Grady Skeoch 6-0/180 Sr.
DB Tyler Peterson 6-1/185 Sr.