While it is nice to have skill position players like Rosenberger and Jones returning, they won't do much damage without help from the line. That is where Sean Bates enters the picture.
Bates, a 6-foot, 7-inch, 275-pound senior tackle who was second-team all- Patriot Division, will be asked to make the lines effective on both sides of the ball. He started defensively a year ago but did not even practice with the offense.
"Back when I got the job I asked the athletic director, Pete Righi, what there was coming back. . . . He said you've got a heck of a quarterback and a pretty good sophomore class coming in. He was right," Saybolt said.
Twenty-three sophomores made the roster last year and this year Saybolt thinks eight of them will start. Three of them could start both ways: Jones, tackle Tim Glass and guard-linebacker Rob Fedirko.
COACHING. Saybolt is in his second. He was the head coach at North Catholic for seven years before that. His lifetime record is 39-45-1.
His assistants are Howard Wible (defensive coordinator and defensive backs), Bob Roman (defensive line and kickers), Bob Maley (linebackers), Al Rongione (offensive line) and Chuck Gill (running backs).
LAST YEAR. 4-7 overall, 3-5 and fifth place in the Patriot Division.
LETTERMEN LOST. Defensive end Keith McCarthy and wide receiver Stuart Richman will be missed. McCarthy played the rushing end and put some good
pressure on the quarterback while Richman was an effective possession receiver. Both players were honorable mention all-Patriot Division. Guard Matt
Vance, a three-year starter, and linebacker Brian Thompson also graduated.
LETTERMEN RETURNING. Rosenberger completed 53 percent of his passes for 732 yards and accounted for 7 touchdowns. One of them was a 98-yard interception return against Archbishop Kennedy. Jones caught 13 passes for 200 yards and stepped in as the quarterback for an injured Rosenberger and threw for four touchdowns against Truman.
The backfield will be returnees Mike Breslin, a senior fullback, and Don Pernsley, a junior halfback.
The line will not be as deep as the backfield and Bates, Glass (6-3, 247) and senior Grant Ervin (6-0, 225) will be go both ways.
The other players returning with substantial experience are senior tight end Dan O'Sullivan, junior two-way end Dave Feinberg, junior defensive back Rick Adcock and senior linebacker Steve Gruber.
NEW PLAYERS. With so many players back there is not a lot of room for newcomers. Sophomore Martin Noble is challenging for some time at wingback and will return kicks. Fellow sophomore Ralph D'Angelo will get a shot at linebacker.
SPECIAL TEAMS. Rosenberger will be the placekicker and punter. He was the full-time punter last year and also kicked 4 extra points.
OUTLOOK. Saybolt thinks that Rosenberger and Jones have what it takes to be an explosive passing tandem. The offensive line will be the key to the running game, but that could also be productive with the top two running backs returning. The defense, which gave up almost 20 points a game over the last seven weeks last year, will have to improve. If it does, this could be the best Tennent team in six years.
SEASON OPENER. The Panthers will play at Lower Merion at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
PLAYER TO WATCH
The player to watch for William Tennent this year will also be the hardest player to miss.
Sean Bates, a 6-foot, 7-inch, 275-pound senior, had some ups and downs last year but he was definitely up in a 7-6 upset over Neshaminy in November. He tipped or blocked four passes and was a big part of the line surge that thwarted Neshaminy's 2-point attempt after its late fourth-quarter touchdown.
"He moves so well for a kid his size," second-year head coach Bill Saybolt said. "He starts for our basketball team and he can really move up and down the court."
This year, Bates will also be moving from defense to offense. Although Saybolt has some good linemen, he doesn't have as much depth at those positions as he does with his backfield and will probably start the season with three players - Bates, senior Grant Ervin and junior Tim Glass - starting both ways on the line.
This is a big move for Bates, who did not even look at the offensive playbook last year when he played only defensive tackle.
"I think it is kind of like a complete change from offense to defense. On defense you can go wild, on offense you have to stay in control," Bates said.
As a junior, Bates made second-team all-Suburban One League Patriot Division as a defensive tackle.
"I thought I had a pretty good year, I could have had a couple better games. But I was happy with the season," Bates said.
He was also happy with the work of Saybolt, who in his first year in the program "gave us a winning attitude," Bates said. The team had won just four games during the previous two years.
"I think last year during the last part of the season we really built a foundation. Plus we had a lot of sophomores playing who would be back. It wasn't like that the year before when we had a lot of seniors playing," Bates said.
As for his basketball future, Bates, who was born in Indiana and lived there until he was 7, is noncommittal.
"I just like playing basketball for fun really," he said. "But I have found out that it helps my foot speed."
You can be sure that Cecil Mosenson, the Tennent basketball coach, would love to see that body stationed in the low post come basketball season. But for now, Bates' focus is firmly on the gridiron.
"This year we should have a pretty solid team. We have a good defensive backfield that that can stop the pass and our front five can stop the run," Bates said.
"I guess there was such a long drought and we have just reached a peak with good young players. And we have a lot of depth."