Coach: Bill LaGrant (1st year)
Last year: 2-8
Key returnees: Peter Oggiani, Sr. TE/DB; Ryle O'Brien, Sr. QB/DB; Jerrad Mead, Sr. OL/DL; Craig Cooley, Sr. OL/DL.
New coach, new attitude. That's the mantra in Great Barrington this year.
LaGrant returns to Berkshire County football this year. He coached at St. Joseph and his last season there was 1986. LaGrant's return won't start easily, as the Spartans open with an improving Pittsfield team and three-time defending Super Bowl champion Greylock that is in reloading mode.
LaGrant had 52 players out for tryouts. The biggest issue the Spartans have to address is that only seven of them are seniors. However, the Spartans do have the most experienced players at key positions.
Perhaps most important is O'Brien, who will run the offense at quarterback. Junior Austin Pectal should see ample time under center, too. They have some senior help right in front with Mead and Cooley on the offensive line. Factor in Tyler Sonsini and the line isn't something to take lightly. They'll pave the way for whoever is lining up in the backfiend. LaGrant said he plans to employ a running back-by-committee approach because each back can play another position, and he wants them to be fresher when they're on defense. That group will consist of Oggiani, Terrance Powell, Mike Buffoni, Mark Leon-Duque and Malik Wilbon. Yes, Wilbon is back after not finishing out the 2012 season.
"He's electric," LaGrant said of Wilbon. "Trust me, I don't want anybody to know I've got him yet."
Oggiani gives O'Brien a nice passing option out of the slot receiver spot, too.
It's going to be one step at a time for the Spartans, as LaGrant said his team "needs to believe before we can win."
That may be the most challenging aspect for LaGrant this year. Teaching X's and O's comes down to repetition; changing the culture, that can take years to accomplish.