Pelasasa had to learn a new playbook after throwing for 1,676 yards and 16 touchdowns last year, in which Menlo finished 5-5 overall. He also rushed for a pair of touchdowns.
Pelasasa will have his favorite receiver back too in senior Robert Adan, who caught 65 passes for 939 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 14.4 yards per reception. In fact, he'll be able to throw to every receiver who caught a touchdown pass from him last year.
That might help make the transition a little easier for the Oaks, who open the season Saturday with a game at the University of British Columbia at 1 p.m.
"I've never played a game this early and I've never played in Canada," Speckman said. "With the offense we don't have the luxury of waiting too long. We've been trying to cram a lot into a short period of time."
Pelasasa and Adan are two of just 17 seniors with the Oaks this season, eight of whom are on offense. Receivers Daniel Stevenson, Matt Belardes, Sam Nix and Dimitri Vigil, running back Kyle Campas and offensive lineman Marc Baker are also in their final year.
"The nice thing is that the core of the team will be around for a couple of years," Speckman said. "On the other hand, we are young and there's a tendency to make mistakes. It's kind of a two-edged sword not having a lot of seniors, but the ones we do have are doing a great job."
Defensively the Oaks will turn to the senior leadership of defensive backs Halen Tanimoto and Sean Gray, linebackers Marcus Alvin, Devon Jonsson, Brent McCord and Mitchell Lum and defensive linemen Greig O'Connor, Rex Hawkins and Tony Ramirez.
Junior Thomas Reynolds joins Campas in the backfield. Reynolds led the Oaks with 320 yards despite appearing in just six games. Campas added another 301 rushing yards.
Junior tight end Devin Young was the third-leading receiver for Menlo last year behind Adan and junior Michael Alexander (39 catches, 409 yards, 3 touchdowns).
"The offense will have big-play capability," Speckman said. "It's a matter of timing and a lot of new terminology. These guys seem real eager and are anxious to get going."
Junior kicker-punter Kevin Kurtz was 15 of 21 on extra point attempts and made all six of his field goal tries, including a long of 40 yards last year.
O'Connor (4 tackles for a loss) will key the defensive side of the ball, with Alvin, who led the team with 67 tackles (including 6 1/2 for a loss) in 2011, and junior linebacker James Yoder looking to make the tackles. Freshman Jaden Roselli has also looked impressive during camp, Speckman said.
The defensive backfield appears to be in the best shape, full of talented, young athletes. In addition to Tanimoto, juniors Joe Correia, Kyle Sundby and Dylan Bunfill and sophomore Kaiiron Richards have the most experience. Sophomores Keontae Holland, Wade Hawkins, Emilio Mendoza, Kyle Stanfel and LeeRoy Richardson give the position valuable depth.
"We have to get to know each other and create a positive culture," Speckman said. "More than anything, we need to prepare properly to win. So far the team has done everything I've asked."
Others to watch include junior running backs Nick Acosta and Nick Petronijevi, junior linebacker Chris Pistella, junior receivers Robert Gehre and Rashaad Smith, junior linebacker PJ Cress, and junior defensive linemen Angel Jimenez, Camyar Meshkaty and Michele Canali.
Other sophomores to watch for include Benjamin Vega, Garrett Bock, Erik Peterson, Jared Hakuole, Jake Fohn, Jordan Hakuole, Christian Hil-Smith, Joey Evans, Grant Hendrickson, Cameron Grad, Spencer Schobert, Christian Daog, Jerardo Torres Rodriguez, Jackson Dallas, Kaia Collier, Vince Snyder, Mikhgail Stanich, Dominic Jackson and Luamata Tagaloa.
This story contains 655 words.
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