NAUGATUCK — Two weeks removed from the abrupt suspension and resignation of former coach Rob Plasky, the Naugatuck football team is settling back to earth.
The Greyhounds are less than a week away from opening the 2012 season Wednesday against Wilby at Municipal Stadium. And even though the last few weeks may have been hectic for the ‘Hounds, interim coach Shawn Kuczenski said they’ve been productive.
“It’s getting better each day,” said Kuczenski, who is also the team’s defensive coordinator.
Naugy has been busy breaking in three new running backs and a new quarterback, among other positions. They’re all charged with helping replace Jake Yourison, who played both positions throughout the majority of last season.
Mick Pernell will start the season as the feature back. The senior, who started at wide receiver last year, relies mostly on his speed and could be a dual-threat option.
“At times you’ll see Mick in the backfield and at times you’ll see him at receiver,” Kuczenski said.
Jerome Love, who played last season at Kennedy, and Nate Franklin will also be in the starting rotation. Kuczenski thinks the three differ from the similar triumvirate that helped the Greyhounds win the 2010 Naugatuck Valley League championship.
“The 2010 guys were big bruisers and these guys are more finesse runners,” Kuczenski said. “Right now Mick’s the dominant one but Jerome is right behind him and Nate is right behind that.”
Jason Bradley will take over at quarterback after winning the preseason competition.
“He’s doing pretty well,” Kuczenski said. “We like him because he’s really good at play-action. He’s finding our receivers and spreading the ball around.”
Bradley will have perhaps the best new target in the entire league with Kuczenski’s son, Brandon. The staff hopes his size and speed creates matchup advantages around the field.
“We have him all over the place,” the coach said. “On one play you’ll see him at tight end. On another you’ll see him in the slot. We’re looking for mismatches.”
With the relative inexperience on both sides of the ball, Kuczenski said the coaches have tried to keep things basic for now.
“We’re just trying to simplify everything right now,” Kuczenski said. “We’re trying not to frustrate them right now. When we see them doing something wrong we slow it down and explain it to them. The sophomores aren’t at the speed we want them to be right now.”
Health is also a problem for the Greyhounds. Two linemen, Brian McGrath and Devon Watkins, have missed time in the preseason and could miss some early in the regular season.
But if and when the team finally gets healthy, Kuczenski thinks the ‘Hounds can turn into an offensive juggernaut.
“We have a lot of talent at our skill positions,” Kuczenski said. “If our line can get healthy we’re going to be a tough team to defend. We’re going to be tough to stop offensively.”
Despite the controversy and distractions leading up to the season, Kuczenski said the team hasn’t lowered its expectations for the season.
“I told the kids we’re not changing anything,” Kuczenski said. “I thought we were a state team before this all happened and I still believe that.”