Carlisle’s football team lost a talented senior class to graduation and coach Brandon Barbaree to an administrative position off last year’s squad that finished 12-2 and reached the Class 2A state semifinals, but the Bison won’t be starting over in 2014.
"I wouldn’t call it rebuilding," new head coach Jack Keith said. "It’s just a regrouping."
Keith, 29, was Carlisle’s defensive coordinator last season, so he is familiar with his new assignment.
"Winning 12 games is a great year in anybody’s book, and it’ll be hard to follow that up," he said. "We had a good group of seniors last year, so we are having to replace a lot of positions on offense and defense, but the kids are stepping up.
"Those replacements have been in the system a long time. They know what they’re doing. We’re going to be very competitive. We’ll win plenty of games, but just a little different than last year. We’ll have to grind some games out."
Keith said Sunday the Bison numbered 31 after the first week of practice.
"That’s about what I expected," he said. "We’ve had some guys out that hadn’t been playing the last couple of years that helped our numbers a little bit, and we had a good solid first week. The guys have really bought in and worked hard. They’ve gotten a lot out of our individual drills and our team drills."
He said practices seemed to go by too quickly last week.
"We never had a practice that drug out and seemed like we didn’t get anything done," he said.
The Bison were scheduled to don full pads Monday, which would enable them to focus on defense after spending more time on offense during the first week of drills. With the staff scheduled for professional development in the middle of the week, practice was set for 4-6 p.m. through Thursday. Friday’s work will be in the morning.
Keith is in his first season as a head coach after three years as an assistant at Warren prior to arriving at Carlisle last season.
He said the major difference with his new assignment was keeping in mind the big picture.
"The administration part of it is the biggest change," he said. "I enjoy it. I’m very excited. It’s a great place to get an opportunity, with the tradition that Carlisle has.
"It looks like it’s somewhere we may be able to set some roots down and stay a while."
Joey Nelson, who comes to Carlisle from Cedar Ridge, is the new Bison defensive coordinator.