Don't expect a lot to change in the Owen J. Roberts offense, with 6-foot-3, 285-pound lineman Kolten Hainsey paving the way for a lot of off-tackle plays in a ground game spearheaded by backs Brad Kinckner and Rayquan Stewart and mobile quarterback Mitch Bradford.
What might raise a few eyebrows around the Pioneer Athletic Conference, however, is the Wildcats' new defensive scheme.
After going with a traditional 4-3 front for virtually the entire tenure of 18th-year head coach Tom Barr, Owen J. Robert will switch to a 3-4 alignment this year.
"We came in after last season and started talking about our personnel and defensive scheme,' Barr said. "The last two years, I don't think we really had our people in the right places, so we took a look at the 3-4 and said, ' You know, let's try that.''
Hainsey will play nose tackle, flanked by ends Will Dawson and Bobby McGee, with Bill Scherfel and Conor Mitchell leading the linebacking corps.
"I like it much better, because I really do like playing nose tackle,' Hainsey said. "Plus our linebackers don't have to worry about guessing; this year they know what holes they're going to and the line can trust the linebackers not to run up their backs.'
After two consecutive seasons of going 3-6 in the league and 3-9 overall, the Wildcats (who are 7-29 overall since sharing the PAC-10 crown in 2010) are hoping to rebound.
"As a team, we seem more together,' Hainsey said.
"Defensively, I think we'll be much stronger up front, but our secondary is still a question mark,' Barr said. "On offense, I think our line is going to be better than last year. We have more experience, we're working together and we're hoping to be able to run the ball a lot better.'
Though the Wildcats did graduate standout lineman Steve Myers and workhorse tailback Wyatt Scott, Barr is optimistic his squad is on the verge of turning the corner.
"I tell you what, the kids are really absorbing the 3-4 defense and really buying into it,' Barr said. "Their attitude is really good defensively, and offensively it's the same thing. I thought we did a nice job over the summer on 7-on-7s, and this group appears to be more excited than last year's group, which is a good sign.'
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.