MUNCIE – From star player to coach, the Delta football team comes in on-message.
Even if the message isn’t exactly subtle.
“People might not think we can get some stuff done,” senior offensive lineman Kaleb Slaven said.
It’s not unusual for a team to think the world is underestimating it. But most often, it’s not often a team leads so hard into it.
“I’ve repeatedly talked to these guys about, I feel like the reality is people don’t think we’re going to be very good,” Delta coach Grant Zgunda said. “We lost a lot of people. So it’s a challenge.
“I think we’ve got a good group of guys that like that.”
When a coach with more than two decades of experience says a lot of players departed, it’s not an understatement.
These Eagles will go into 2015 without many of the most key cogs of the past three seasons.
Gone is Cade Jones, a steady starting quarterback for the past three seasons. Gone is Joe Spegal, a prolific runner who left the school with some key career rushing records and capped his career with a monster 1,960-yard, 30-touchdown season.
All told, the team loses its top passer, three of its top four rushers, three of its top five receivers and seven of its top 10 tacklers, including massive lineman Luke Overfield, who also played offensive tackle. Throw in 85 percent of its sacks and 70 percent of its interceptions departing, and maybe Zgunda has a point.
Players approached it in different ways. Slaven suggested it might throw opponents a bit of a change-up. Tailback Zach Mills said it was tough moving on, but he wasn’t fazed.
Cornerback/quarterback Tanner Lambert focused on one other factor.
“It’s different because a lot of people didn’t go both ways,” Lambert said. “We have to be a lot more in shape this year. We’re going to have to count on the guys that are out here.”
But it’s not as if the cupboard is bare.
Mills will slide into the tailback role Spegal left. Lambert and senior Ryley Pease will reprise their roles as starting safety and cornerback, respectively, and combine to split quarterback duties. Hard-nosed linebacker Logan Clawson will add fullback duties. At 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Slaven will not only anchor the offensive line at guard, but also likely the defensive front as well (17 tackles, four for loss last year).
The schedule is far from easy, with a feisty Shenandoah team in Week 2 and a Hoosier Heritage Conference slate that is never a cakewalk.
Yet as players and coaches profess the public at large likely won’t expect much, they’re not pushing too hard to buy into their own talk.
“These are my favorite years where people don’t think you’re going to be very good,” Zgunda said. “Guys that haven’t had a chance to prove themselves, this is your chance.
“I think we’ve got a good group that people don’t know about.”