Bishop Ryan's coaching staff delivered this message to the Lions after their first day of practice Wednesday: "Get in your playbooks tonight."
The Lions implemented college-style schemes on both sides of the ball last year and expect to get more intricate this season. Ryan runs a 3-4 defense with zone blitzes and stunts and a spread offense that includes some snaps in the pistol formation, where the quarterback receives a shotgun snap from the center and the tailback lines up directly behind the signal-caller.
"The one part where we're so far ahead is we return nine starters on both sides of the ball," Ryan coach Brad Borkhuis said. "Being able to do that, a lot of the stuff that we talked about or worked on all last year is now setting the platform or the standard for this year, and now we're just taking off from there. So that really helps us put more complexity and more diversity in our offense and defense."
Five of Ryan's coaches played college football and their experiences are used to develop the Lions' schemes. Borkhuis said the staff talks with Minot State University's coaches and watches Beaver practices to come up with wrinkles for their own 3-4 defense.
"I play offensive line and defensive line, both ways, and I know if I was playing offensive line some of the defensive stuff we're doing would be tough to block," junior Mason Kramer said. "That's why we're doing it - it's tough on high school kids to block when their guys aren't there that they're supposed to be blocking and new guys are showing."
Borkhuis said his defense is designed to pressure opponents into game-changing mishaps.
"It forces young kids into quick decisions and any time you do that, that's when mistakes happen on their side," Borkhuis said. "The more you can force them into (those) instances, you're gonna be on the benefit side - they're gonna have turnovers, they're gonna have fumbles or lost yardage."
Junior cornerback Brody Bosch said the Lions' first practice was "a lot better than last year. We had more guys working (in the) offseason to get to this day, be more improved."
The graduation of Mark Koble, now a freshman at MSU, will leave a hole at linebacker, but senior all-state running back/linebacker Chase Fugere could play a more prominent role on defense.
"We have a lot of athletes that can run on the field, so we're gonna be able to spread teams out and attack from different angles offensively and defensively," Borkhuis said. "We're gonna be able to blitz from places most people can't blitz from."
Despite the Lions' plans to use complex alignments, Borkhuis doesn't want to bog his players down with Xs and Os.
"The worst thing any coach can do is fill these kids' heads with way too much detail that they can't execute," he said. "We work these kids out and the kids lift their weights all summer and do all that stuff to be strong kids and good athletes, but if you make (schemes) so complex that they can't be true athletes, then you've really kind of hindered yourself."