For The Tribune

Fans attending Seymour football games this season will see some noticeable changes in how the team operates.

Mike Kelly is the new head coach of the Owls, replacing Josh Shattuck, who moved to Elkhart.

Kelly has installed a new ‘pro’ offense and says his basic defense is a 4-man front.

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“From a team standpoint, they were a very senior-heavy team last year so every position is re-loading,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot to do and learn.”

Kelly said one area he is pleased with is the progress of his quarterbacks, Alan Perry and Brendan Smith.

“Alan and Smith are picking up the responsibilities and roles of that and are understanding the concepts of the offense,” he said. “They’ve done a pretty good job of setting the expectations in terms of the tone of the huddle and the command of the huddle and those are all good things to do.”

Fundamentals have taken precedence under Kelly’s regime.

“I see the fundamentals are starting to come together,” Kelly said. “The difference is in the offense and defense they were used to and the offense and defense we’re running.

“Just the fundamentals that I’m expecting versus what they were used to is good to see that those things are starting to click now. (Friday) I saw a lot of great things from the offense and the defense.”

The Owls will use a tight end in their offense this season.

“We’ll have a tight end most of the time,” Kelly said. “We have multiple formations. We have one-, two-, three-tight end sets. Two backs. We have four-receiver sets. We have a multitude of things we do with it.”

Nathan O’Mara, who ranked second on the team last fall with 23 catches for 252 yards, is back for his junior year. He also rushed for 557 yards last fall.

The top tacklers from last fall returning are Alex Holt, who has 33 tackles and 12 assists, Dustin Metz (33-6) and Leo Pena (15-10).

“There is a multitude of ways you can run the four down defense,” Kelly said. “A 4-3 is our base defense. In the defensive line we have two starters that are coming back and some fill in players. The linebackers are all brand new for the most part.

“Every position is re-loading to some effect. I’m not going to let that be an excuse. I’m going to have high expectations.”

A pair of seniors, Perry and Brendan McCartney said there are a lot of changes, and the team is excited for the season.

Perry, who passed for 1,572 yards and 12 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,173 yards and 23 touchdowns last has had big adjustments under center.

“It’s definitely been a big learning curve to adjust to Coach Kelly’s offense,” Perry said. “We used to be in the pistol, in the shotgun, now we’re under center a lot of the time.

“Just that little thing is a big adjustment and it kind of builds from there. You start learning how to take snaps under center and you learn Coach Kelly’s schemes, his ideas. So it’s definitely been a big learning curve all the way from where we line up to plays that we run.”

The Owls ran a spread offense under Shattuck, and were 8-4 last fall that included an 8-game winning streak, and they advanced to the championship game of the sectional before losing to East Central.

Perry been starting at quarterback since his freshman year.

“Now we line up a lot more with a tight end or an H back,” Perry said. “We’re more condensed, based more play-action type stuff.”

Perry said he received a new playbook at the end of last school year and spent a lot of time this summer studying it.

“I’ve been trying to learn as quickly as I could throughout the summer,” he said. “The fans will definitely see a lot different formations, schemes and I think it should be fun. It will be a fun year.”

The Owls will scrimmage at Silver Creek at 7 p.m. Friday and will open the season Aug. 18 against Evansville Harrison. This past Saturday, they held their annual intrasquad scrimmage at Bulleit Stadium.

McCartney, who had 12 tackles, 4 assists, 5 tackles for loss and 1 sack last fall will play as a defensive end.

“We have more linebackers in, different alignments, different stunts, play calls,” McCartney said. “So, it’s just been about learning mentally, getting to know all these new plays and running them correctly every time.”

Kelly said that the class of 2017 influenced this year’s group of athletes.

“Last year’s senior class was hopefully a good senior class that kind of taught them the expectation of how to practice, so we’re learning that right now,” Kelly said.

There are 15 seniors, 20 juniors and 18 sophomores on the roster.

“We’re still trying to get the kinks ironed out,” Kelly said. “We had two kids move in (Thursday). That’s good for us.

“The core group of guys (returning starters) are the same core group of guys that were here this summer. I think those are guys that are fully capable of stepping up and being successful, and helping us be successful. I’m excited to see how we compete. We’ve been hitting each-other for two months. We’re ready to hit someone else.”

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Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.