It's the start of a new chapter and Jason Miller the new author as he takes over as football coach at Gunn High. He's hoping to be able to duplicate the success he had coaching three prep programs in Southern California.
Miller has installed a run-heavy double-wing offense. Solomone Paletua (6-0, 190) will play a key role as the quarterback on offense and linebacker on defense. He and Lee Howard (5-10, 165) look like they might be the primary ball carriers.
"The good thing about our system is it being adaptable to different kinds of runners, both the bruising, physical kind and the smaller quicker kind,'' Miller said.
Paletua took on a variety of roles and had a number of quality games last season for a 3-7 Gunn team. Howard provides a breakaway threat.
"He's got a shot to play at the next level, probably as a slot receiver,'' Miller said of Howard. "He has worked very hard to increase his strength in order to take a little bit of pounding and protect himself from injury.''
The fullback in the double-wing plays an important role as a dive back. The ability of the fullback to gain yards up the middle opens the off-tackle and end runs for the wingbacks and quarterback. Miller says he likes a quick, tough guy as his fullback and so far sophomore Richard Jackson has filled the bill. Linebacker Sa'a Faasisila (5-9, 238) will also see time at fullback. Phillip Doan is another player who will get some carries at running back and play linebacker on defense.
"We've got some pieces,'' Miller said. "They're still growing. Our motto is trying to stack good days on top of good days.''
Geordie Emberling is a standout on the offensive line with a chance to play in college, perhaps at an Ivy League school.
"I'm real excited about the season, but I hold my breath because of our low numbers,'' Miller said. "We can't afford injuries.''
There are 25 players on the varsity roster and a little over 50 in the program. A lack of bodies is a problem that has beset the Titans throughout the years. Going back in time, Gunn went 5-4-1 in 1997 for its first winning season in 26 years, then had three more consecutive winning seasons. But since a 7-3 season in 2002 Gunn has finished above .500 only once, in 2012, when a Dan Navarro-coached team also went 7-3.
"I'm trying to insert toughness into their psyches,'' Miller said. "We need mental toughness to take us through the long season. Last year they got off to good starts in a lot of games before falling behind late in the game. We need the mental toughness to pull those games out this year.''