With only three starters returning on offense and two on defense, Lake Zurich is starting the season as young and inexperienced.
Its coaches are starting the season with an extra-long to-do list.
"As coaches, we've talked about how we're going to have to really earn that ‘Coach' in front of our names this season," Lake Zurich head coach Dave Proffitt said. "We're really going to have to do some coaching.
"The number of returning starters and even just returning players with experience is the lowest we've ever had (in eight years). It's real challenging.
"But our staff has been together for a long time and that helps. And our boys are stepping up to get ready to start the season."
The Bears may be inexperienced, but they know all about expectations at Lake Zurich. Last season marked the fourth time in the last eight years that the Bears advanced to the IHSA state championship game.
Lake Zurich wound up being the state runner-up last season to Mt. Carmel, which was its third second-place finish. The Bears won a state title in 2007.
"We do talk about how last year is last year, but at the same time, it's also a foundation to build on," said Proffitt, who guided his team to a 12-2 record last year. "The tradition that we have at Lake Zurich is something for all the new players who come in to build toward."
This year, Lake Zurich will start the re-building process with a pair of talented running backs in Ben Klett and Zane Lodico. Klett, who scored more than 20 touchdowns last season, is dangerous on the perimeter while the 215-pound Lodico is a load inside between the tackles.
Klett and Lodico are excited to run behind the block of veteran offensive lineman Zach Wallace, who is 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds and the only other returning starter. Wallace recently gave a verbal commitment to Wyoming.
"We're going to do what we always try to do and that's run the ball," Proffitt said. "Ben is bigger, stronger and faster and Zane got a lot of reps for us last year."
Junior Joey Lindstrom got his reps on the sophomore team last year. He won the job of starting quarterback by beating out two teammates and has shown promise at times in the off-season.
"He worked very hard over the summer," Proffitt said of Lindstrom. "But he's still a work in progress. He just needs more reps."
The same could be said for four sophomores who could be starting on defense for the Bears.
"If they aren't starting, they'll be getting a lot of playing time," Proffitt said of defensive back Matt Lawson, linebackers Alex Miller and Ryan McGeever and lineman Blake Bransky.
"This is the highest number of sophomores we've had up on varsity," Proffitt said. "One reason is that the positions they play, we just don't have a lot of depth there. But it's also because of their skill and athleticism. They are ready for this move, and we've told all our boys to be ready to be called on."
The sophomores will join a couple of defensive veterans in defensive back Trevor Staley and linebacker Jordan Juarez. Tim Hass, a lineman who should have gotten a lot of reps last year but missed time with an injury, is also back.
"If you look at our depth chart, we've got 10 to 12 underclassmen, sophomores and juniors, who could be starting. That's a high number for us," Proffitt said. "We'll be young. Our biggest goal right now is to win Game 1."