With all but four starters returning, the Storm Lake High football team looks to improve on its 4-5 overall mark from last year and its 3-4 district record from 2005.
"We have many players returning," said SLHS coach Bill McCabe. "A lot of them have good speed at their positions.
"We have a chance to be a good defense if we can develop an aggressive, physical attitude and control the line of scrimmage," he added.
McCabe said his team also be "bigger, stronger and faster. And hopefully, experience will lead to improvement on the field."
The Tornadoes also return 18 starters who played either offense of defense last season.
They include quarterback Mitch McCabe, who completed 116 of 213 passes for 1,377 yards and seven touchdowns last season despite playing with a sore ankle.
Senior slot back Tyson Brandt will be a key cog in the Tornadoes' offense both running the ball and in receiving. In 2005, Brandt rushed 31 times for 84 yards and caught 23 passes for 202 yards.
As a safety on defense, Brandt recorded two interceptions and and made 63 tackles.
Senior Aaron Clausen also returns. The 6-3 senior had an outstanding year at defensive end in 2005, with an interception, 5.5 sacks and 34 tackles. Clausen was a first-team all-district player in 2005.
Returning at a linebacker is junior Brady Randall, who notched 71 tackles last season along with four sacks and one interception.
Junior Chom Thammavongsa returns as a slot back on offense and a safety on defense. Last season Thammavongsa registered 16 receptions for 285 yard and two touchdowns. At safety, he made 42 tackles and added 3.5 sacks.
Other returning starters include senior offensive guard Kyle Nielsen, senior offensive/defensive lineman Jordan Carlson, offensive/defensive lineman Lucas Droessler and senior noseguard Adam Davis.
Last season, Carlson had 31 tackles, one interception and 2.5 sacks. On defense in 2005, Droessler made 25 tackles while Davis made 34 tackles at noseguard.
McCabe added that a number of players are set to fill in spots vacated by graduation seniors.
The include senior end/cornerback Luke VanderWoude, linebacker/end Jon Foell, linebacker Brandon Miller, center Joe Stuckel, linebacker Thomas Stewart, and running back Alex Severson.
Other players expected to vie for starting positions include junior defensive lineman Matt Snyder, senior wideout Zach Manteufel and cornerback/slotback Nate Porsch.
"We return 17 lettererwinners overall, so experience is a strength," McCabe said. "We also have good speed at most positions."
McCabe said his team should have more balance between the run pass than last season. The Tornadoes averaged 39 yards rushing per game and 201 yards passing.
"We need to be able to run the ball when needed," McCabe said. "We also need to be more physical on both offense and defense.
"We also need to develop depth," he said. "If not, injuries could have a great effect on us," the coach said.
Offensively, McCabe said his team will have great speed on offense and will look to run the ball more than it did last year."
Prospective starters at the so-called skill positions are Mitch McCabe at quarterback, Brandt at running back, Thammavongsa and Porsch in the slot, Clausen at end and Brady Randall at halfback and other skilled positions.
Defensively, McCabe his team will have excellent speed on defense.
"We just need to be aggressive and more physical," he added.
McCabe said his team needs to build confidence by winning its non-district games at the start of the a season. The Tornadoes open with Sheldon Friday, Sept. 1 in Storm Lake, then play and at Cherokee in their last non-district game Sept. 8
Their first two district games are at Denison-Schleswig (Sept. 15), at home vs. LeMars and a homecoming game vs. MOC-Floyd Valley. Denison-Schleswig, along with Sergeant Bluff-Luton and Sioux City Bishop Heelan are new to the district.