After winning four of its first games, Woodstock finished 4-6 and missed the playoffs after losing key offensive facets, Jonathan Wiener and Pryce Washington.
This spring, neither Wiener nor Washington are on campus, but the Wolverines are still optimistic about their upcoming season.
Much of the reason for that comes from the program’s hallmark: its defense. Cherokee Tribune Defensive Player of the Year Trey Alexander returns at linebacker, along with three of four players in the secondary, two linebackers and two defensive linemen.
“We like to take pride in that,” Woodstock coach Brent Budde said. “We weren’t as good as we were hoping to be last year. We are putting a little more emphasis on the offense. We won’t give up any points if they control the clock and are driving the ball.”
Additionally, Woodstock has introduced a new offensive scheme. Last season, the Wolverines spent most of their time running plays out of the pistol formation, which required Woodstock to play out of the shotgun. This year, rising junior quarterback Alex Motsinger will spend most of the time under center.
“We’re actually starting kind of a Wing-T, not a true Wing-T, but running midline and triple option out of that,” rising senior wide receiver/defensive back Max Keeton said. “I like it a lot. It’s coming together real well. It’s only three weeks of it and we’re looking pretty good.”
Outside of having a new offense, Woodstock made more of a concerted effort on increasing depth at each position. During spring practice, Budde and the coaching staff split the roster in half with one side playing on the ‘Navy’ side and the other on the ‘White’ side.
The two teams would compete against each other in practice every day up through the spring game last Friday. Additionally, every player on the roster played on both sides of the ball this spring in an added emphasis to create more depth this year.
“It was to make sure that we had two-deep at every position, whether we had to cross over or just be on one side” Budde said. “But we wanted to be two-deep at every position with someone that was ready to go into the game if needed. For the first time ever, everyone practiced on both sides of the ball this spring.
“We wanted to evaluate the talent to see who could and who wouldn’t be.”
One of those that will play both sides is Alexander.
While he starred at linebacker last year, he will also be expected to start at fullback and play significant amounts of time on both sides of the ball.
“It was different, but you have to learn how to keep on going,” Alexander said. “You have to learn how to play the position. You get tired, but you don’t really worry about it because you have to play when it comes down to it.”
Alexander won’t have to play every down though, as the Wolverines have significant depth at running back including Sharrone Gates, Nick Cable and Donovan Brand.
But more than the backfield, Budde was encouraged by what he saw from the guys in the trenches. Although tackle Josh Schoeb graduated, the offensive line will be a strength.
“We moved Tyler Baggett, a starting defensive linemen for us all of last year as a sophomore,” Budde said. “This year, he will be a junior. He will probably start and see time on the defensive line as well. Jonah Schoeb will also see time on the offensive line.
“We shored up our offensive line. I felt really good about that to go along with the running backs they have behind them and the receivers we have on the edge. We’re pretty balanced all the way across.”
While Budde has found a way to improve the team’s personnel and find more depth, the team on its own has added its own intangible to the mix, and it’s something that can’t be coached.
“We grew as a family,” Keeton said. “We weren’t as tight as we were coming into (last) spring. It feels like everyone understands how we are going to play this year.
“When anybody is down, the whole team will come up and get ’em hyped and going for practice. Like I said, we had two different teams during practice. Our teams came together. It was crazy, the amount of noise and excitement that was happening. Everybody just got to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses better and grow off of that.”