BY SHEL SEGAL
ALHAMBRA -- John Tuttle, Mark Keppel's first-year football coach, doesn't make any promises about this being the year for the Aztec team to do great things.
Taking over a program that has been in decay for many years and following a winless 2015 campaign under former coach Aaron Sepulveda, Tuttle said he just wants his team to be competitive in a majority of its games.
"It's just about the kids and trying to give them the best opportunities," said Tuttle, who was the head coach at Glendale from 2012-14 where he had a combined 10-20 record. "The kids have been great. They've shown up and been at practices. They give everything they have during practice."
But the toughest thing just off the bat for Tuttle is the fact that there are just 22 players on the Aztec roster, making it by far the smallest in the Almont League.
"It has hit the quality of practices a little bit harder," he said. "It's just a matter of trying to find the right combination. And, of course, the depth chart is a little difficult."
Starting off the depth chart is returning quarterback Chris Navarette. Tuttle said don't expect Navarette to stay in the pocket always.
"Chris likes to run," Tuttle said. "Chris is a runner. (With his arm) he does the best he can. He's a very intelligent kid."
Navarette's two main targets are expected to be wide receivers Bryan Torres and Kobe To, Tuttle said.
"Kobe is one of our faster players," Tuttle said. "And Bryan is a possession kind of wide receiver."
As far as the offensive backfield is concerned, Tuttle said he is planning on utilizing the play of two backs -- fullback Jevon Fam and tailback Kyle Chuang.
"They're kind of learning," Tuttle said of his running back duo. "Fam is learning to get downhill and attack the line of scrimmage. Kyle is learning the part that you have to be physical at the fullback position, And we'll try to give him the ball a couple of times to make him happy."
While the details of the five offensive linemen have not yet entirely been worked out, Tuttle said he expects the line can hold its own and especially help out Fam and Chuang when they have the ball. ... I think we're going to lean on our offense to control the ball."
"Obviously, it's the depth there," he said. "We're not really deep. But they're working hard. We're hoping they're going to give us some protection. We're going to lean on them for some protection and help us in the running game."
And as far as the defense goes and especially the defensive line -- Tuttle said initially he is going to get the job done entirely by committee, placing players there by how the game dictates with most players playing both sides of the ball.
"I think it's an honor to go both ways," he said. "It wears and tears on them, but you can't complain about playing time. They get plenty of reps. Hopefully, they like it."
He added while games are nice to win, at this point moral victories will be the key, adding he is most likely looking at a five-year play to bring this program back to where it should be.
"We're trying to get competitive," "Hopefully, the kids will have a good experience with it. ... If the kids come out we can definitely get more competitive. I'm looking to stay here and get more competitive and see if we can get some more kids out."
So, what would make 2016 a successful season?
"The kids have fun, we get competitive and get a win here and there," Tuttle said.
Keppel opens the season on the road this Friday night at 7 p.m. at Ganesha. The Aztecs' home opener is on Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. against Wilson.