Experience may mean everything to the San Luis Obispo High football team this season.
At the start of last year, the Tigers implemented a triple-option offense under first-year head coach David Kelley. They finished 3-7 overall, losing their final five games, with a 1-4 mark in the PAC 7.
But now, after an entire year of becoming acquainted with the intricate system — even down to the program’s junior varsity and freshman levels — the Tigers are hoping their familiarity with it will pay off.
“When you change schemes, there’s a learning curve,” Kelley said. “That’s life. We have a year of experience under our belt.
“It’s just like anything. The more you do things, the better you’re going to get at it. We know how to adjust, we know the strengths and weaknesses, and we’re really happy with it.”
During last year’s trial run with the misdirection-based look meant to confuse the opposition, the Tigers fumbled 23 times, losing 17 of them.
“We’re a lot further along this year than we were last year,” senior running back Vance Cramer said. “We should be much improved. You’ve really got to trust the guys next to you. It’s all about timing and confidence.”
Kelley, who had been the Tigers’ defensive coordinator from 2006-08, has also spent time studying the triple option at Cal Poly, which installed the offense in 2007, and in recent years has utilized the scheme to take advantage of its quickness.
The same dichotomy of speed-versus-girth will exist again for the Tigers in relation to the rest of the PAC 7, particularly in the trenches.
San Luis Obispo’s roster lists four players above 215 pounds, while Atascadero, for instance, has 15.“With the triple option, you don’t need the biggest linemen,” Cramer said. “The quickness we have will help a lot.”
Anthony Maez figures to start at quarterback after going 33-of-61 passing for 322 yards and a touchdown with an interception as a junior. He also ran for 167 yards on 53 carries.
The backfield will also feature a second-team all-league choice in the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Cramer, as well as a more versatile, speedy weapon in junior Jake Lacy, who last year led the Tigers with 11 catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
Mason Orradre, a 6-foot, 175-pound senior, is expected to make strong contributions at receiver.
Defensively, the Tigers will look for leadership from 6-2, 215-pound linebacker Nick Butier, a co-captain who had 96 tackles during an all-county and all-league second-team 2009 season — the most of any returning PAC 7 player.
“Going into camp this year, it was almost like everyone knew exactly what to do,” Butier said of building upon last year. “Now it’s just getting the details down.”
In the secondary, junior cornerback Louie Summer figures to help ease the losses of all-county first-team defensive backs Josh James and Alex Frost, who combined to intercept nine passes a year ago — the most of any duo in the PAC 7.
The Tigers open the season at 7 on Saturday night hosting Kingsburg and begin league play Oct. 1 at Paso Robles.