Spring football is all about filling spots, assessing talent and beginning to build the makings of a team.
At least that's what spring football provided this year for the Burroughs High and Burbank football teams, as spring practices concluded last week. With returning coaches and established systems, the Indians and Bulldogs picked up just where they left off when the season concluded in the fall.
However, there was no spring football at Bellarmine-Jefferson. With new coach Lance Fauria at the helm for less than a month before spring ball got underway, there was just no time to assemble a workout regimen or get the Guards players organized.
Coming off seasons in which two of the three teams qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs in 2012, Burroughs, Burbank and Bell-Jeff did lose their share of talented players. However, all three coaches are optimistic about the 2013 campaign and expect to have their share of standout players.
Here is a look at each team.
The Bulldogs accomplished something in 2012 they hadn't done the previous season — advancing to the CIF Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs.
The Bulldogs played well in the Pacific League, finishing second behind champion Muir. Burbank went 7-4, 6-1 in league and fell in the first round of the playoffs to Norwalk, 49-14.
Two of the leaders from last season were lineman Steven Kim and running back James Williams, both of whom earned All-CIF honors. Unfortunately for Burbank, Kim graduated. Kim was a stalwart on the Burbank defense, earning the Pacific League Defensive Player of the Year honor, along with an All-Area first-team accolade. He had 65 tackles and 12 sacks.
But Williams will be back and will only be a junior.
"James is really looking good and he should be a force next season," Burbank Coach Hector Valencia said. "He has been working on his speed and he should be even better than he was last season."
Williams had 133 carries for 1,443 yards (10.8 yards a carry) and 17 touchdowns last season. He was named the All-Pacific League Offensive Player of the year."
Another player who impressed Valencia during the spring was quarterback Ryan Meredith, who will be a junior. He earned the starting quarterback job midway through last season and seemed to spark the Bulldogs.
Valencia said Williams and Meredith have been gaining experience playing in seven-on-seven passing leagues.
"Mark has gained arm strength and he throws a very catchable ball," Valencia said. "He has good velocity on his throws and he is getting better as a player. He looked good for us out there."
Meredith should have a willing target in wide receiver Sebastian Santoro, an all-league honoree last season who will be a senior.
Returning to help anchor the offensive line is Michael Wong, who will be a senior.
Trying to run full spring workouts was at times a challenge for Valencia. He said because of other obligations, some of the Bulldogs weren't able to practice on a consistent basis.
"We did have some guys in other sports, some in baseball and some in track," Valencia said. "But we also had some kids taking AP classes and they weren't able to be out there. That was a little bit of a distraction for us because sometimes we would only have 30 kids out there.
"But I was happy with the quality and the effort of the players who were out there. We did have some very good practices and I was overall pretty happy with how things went."
The Indians are trying to turn things around after a disappointing 2012 campaign. Burroughs, which won a share of the Pacific League championship a year earlier, struggled at times and didn't qualify for the postseason. The Indians tied for third in league with a 4-3 mark and ended the season at 4-6.
"The good thing about that is that we have a lot of guys who were young last season back for us this year," Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop said. "They realize what they went through last year and a lot of them don't want to repeat it. We are going to be way more experienced and things are looking pretty good for us.
"We have been working really hard in the offseason and we've had some pretty good showings in some tournaments."
In a passing league tournament last weekend at L.A. Pierce College, Burroughs advanced to the consolation championship and fell late against league foe Crescenta Valley.
What Knoop said impressed him the most during spring practices was the quality of wide receivers the Indians will have next season. Stepping up during the spring have been Conor Joyce and Sean Johnson, who will both be seniors.
"We do have some great receivers," Knoop said. "Conor Joyce has been a really nice surprise. He's grown about two inches and he's been running about a 4.5 40 in drills, so he's going to be ready. Another key guy for us is Sean Johnson. He has been getting a lot of interest from schools and he's already gotten an offer from New Mexico."
Getting the ball to the crop of receivers will be quarterback Andrew Williams, who will be a senior. Last season, Williams had to split time at quarterback and was also was hampered by injury.
"Andrew is back and if he can stay healthy he should do a good job for us," Knoop said. "He has a super-strong arm and he knows the offense a lot better after playing last season."
As has been a long-standing strength at Burroughs for a number of years, Knoop said he expects to have a fine group of linemen who will see their share of playing time next season. Returning to shore up the lines will be Andrew Miles (junior), Jacob Pentland (senior) and Jacob Lopez (senior). They will be joined by Oscar Quintana (senior) and Anthony Olea, who is up from the junior varsity team.
Another player Knoop has been impressed with is junior transfer Javier Pineda, who was the most valuable player on Schurr's freshman team.
"He is a really good running back," Knoop said. "We're expecting good things from him."
Notable losses to graduation for the Indians included first-team all-league linemen Daniel Marbach and Ermar Cruz and wide receiver Garrett Manoukian.
Fauria took over at Bell-Jeff for David Machuca, who accepted the job as offensive coordinator under John Rome at Glendale Community College.
Last season, Bell-Jeff had a 4-7 record (2-2 in Santa Fe League). The Guards qualified for the CIF Southern Section Division Northeast playoffs, losing to No. 2 Rio Hondo Prep, 57-6. Rio Hondo Prep went on to win the division title.
It was the first time the Guards qualified for the postseason in three years.
Fauria, who took over the program the first week of May, knew he would face challenges when he accepted the job.
"We are just hoping to get players from our campus to come out and try out for football," Fauria said. "That's really what our focus is all about now. We are also getting some freshmen in, so hopefully they will help us."
With no spring practice, Fauria said he still doesn't know the caliber of talent he will have for the 2013 season.
"We will have to wait for summer to do that," he said. "Even through we didn't practice in the spring, we'll catch up. The guys have been involved in finals this past week and I've just kinda left them alone. I wanted them to get their academics done."
Because he doesn't know what to expect from his players, Fauria said he will wait to determine what type of offense he will run.
"We have to see what type of players we have before I figure what kind of offense is going to work for us," he said. "We will just try and put the best team that we can on the field."
The Guards did lose two key players from last season.
The biggest loss was Josh Martinez, an All-CIF standout who graduated. Carrying the majority of the offensive workload for Bell-Jeff, Martinez had 237 carries for 1,813 yards and averaged 7.7 yards a carry. In addition, he tallied 26 rushing touchdowns. In total, Martinez chalked up nearly 2,100 total yards and had 29 touchdowns and 38 two-point conversions for a total of 250 points on the season.
The Guards have also lost quarterback Jonathan Porter, who transferred.
"Hopefully, even through we didn't practice during the spring, we can pick right up during summer," Fauria said. "We are looking forward to the challenge."