LOGAN — When the Logan Chieftains experienced unparalleled success behind quarterback Patrick Angle and a stable of terrific receivers in 2008 and 2009, they utilized a spread offense that both befuddled and overwhelmed their opposition.
For the most part, the Chiefs have used a spread offense since… but without the success. And while the 2013 Chiefs are running what could be termed a spread offense, it's not geared solely to get the ball to receivers in open space as the Angle-to-receivers spread was.
"We'll be in different personnel groupings," he continued. "Sometimes there are two running backs in the game; sometimes there are four receivers in the game. It all depends upon how we're trying to design the plays or schemes to get certain weapons in our offense the ball."
When he was hired as head coach, Burke said he would be flexible to make the offense work to fit his personnel. That's what he and his coaching staff have done.
"We definitely have different weapons to work with," Burke revealed. "We'll be anywhere from two tight ends sometimes, sometimes three receivers where we're trying to get a certain guy the ball, either run or pass — and sometimes we'll stay in two backs and run the ball.
"We're pretty blessed to have a variety of personnel we can get in at certain times that can do a variety of things, but still within the context of what we do offensively," he added.
In other words, the Chiefs plan to diversify their offense given the situation and personnel. It may sound a little vague, but there’s method to the madness.
The offensive line is the place Logan has plenty of experience. All five anticipated starters are returning lettermen and four were starters last fall.
"We start five seniors on the offensive line, so with a shotgun team the most important guy has to be consistent in snapping the ball," Burke said. Center "Caleb Myers (6-0, 205 pounds) has really done a nice job. As long as he's consistent snapping the ball we have a chance. Brock Emerson (5-10, 250) and Reggie Wesselhoeft (6-4, 300) have been solid at playing tackle for us, and Nick Schneider (6-0, 215) and Jesse Needs (5-11, 225) at guards.
"Jesse has gotten significantly more playing time recently and has made our offensive line better," he continued. "Those guys are starting to jell together more and more every day and as they go, we will go on offense."
The O-line averages 239 pounds, which should be an advantage in most games.
"I think we have good size on the offensive line," Burke stated. "I can see each and every day that we are a little better.
"We're still in the process of figuring out who our depth" players will be, he added. "The way we structured camp, a lot of guys understand our scheme; it's now a matter of who are our second-teamers, who are going to sub for who — but the way our offensive line scheme is, any offensive lineman can play any (O-line) position."
Burke explains why.
"The term is 'injury-proof,' " he said. "The only guy who's different is the center because he has to snap the ball, but you should be able to play right tackle and left guard and it shouldn't be too dissimilar to the other. The scheme is pretty similar in each and every position."
The Chiefs attempted 152 passes last season. Although all were by underclassmen, Logan does not have a player on its roster who has ever thrown a regular-season varsity pass.
Jack Music threw 151 of those aerials last season. But when Music, who started 15 games the past two seasons — including all but one last year — chose not to return for his senior season, it created what turned out to be a wide-open competition for the starting nod.
Sophomore Lane Little (5-7, 135) has emerged as the starter.
"We had four quarterbacks (Little, Nick Kost, Caleb Lewellen and Casey Phillips) who were competing for the job throughout July and early August, and Lane Little separated himself," Burke revealed. "He's the guy who is your prototypical quarterback. He's got the 'it' factor, and the 'it' factor is nothing I can coach... it's just the way he carries himself. He's a natural leader, and the way he runs the offense and his understanding of everything is pretty phenomenal for a sophomore. But even though he's a sophomore, I think we're going to be pretty pleased with how he'll play this season.
"His timing is great and he throws a very good ball," Burke continued, "but the one thing that probably separated him was, in camp, when things would break down he had the ability to step up in the pocket or scramble and make a play on the run. That's the 'it' factor. He was still able to escape (a broken play) and still make a play downfield because of the 'it' factor."
Little's not a big guy, but that doesn't concern Burke in the least.
"If it was based upon height, we'd play our tallest 11 players; if it was based upon weight, we'd play our heaviest 11 players," Burke said. "We all have this idea in mind of prototypical size (for a quarterback), but if you can play, you can play. It doesn't matter what your speed, height or weight is."
Kost (6-0, 185) will be Little's backup, but he'll be a player with lots of duties.
"Nick presents a different option at quarterback; he will probably run the ball more than he throws it," Burke said. "There will be times when he comes into the game he would be in a Tim Tebow-type of package (when Tebow played for the University of Florida), and we'll do that a little bit with Nick.”
Kost did just that in last Friday night’s OHSAA “Jamboree” scrimmage against Sheridan and scored on a 3-yard run.
"And with the way that we do offense, you'd be surprised how well the quarterbacks know the running back position," Burke noted. "Nick has been practicing at quarterback but also goes in at times in different personnel groupings at running back. If he's called to duty at running back he'll fill in there quite nicely."
Speaking of running the ball, the Chiefs return senior Isaac Schmeltzer (5-11, 175), who rushed for 562 yards and a team-high six touchdowns despite missing more than two games due to injury last fall. Only Cory McCarty (1,072 yards) ran for more.
"Isaac Schmeltzer is going to haul the mail for us," Burke stated. "When we go into one-back sets, he's going to be our feature guy. Sophomores Cole Baron (5-10, 180) and Bryce McBride (5-9, 175) will see time. What's nice is that Kost, McBride (and) Baron are all defensive guys, but we're not always going to need all those running backs in the game at the same time.
"We'll be able to find ways to get those guys breaks on offense but, at the same time, when we want to go with multiple-back sets, when they're fresh we'll have the opportunity to do that," he added. "What we probably don't have is the traditional fullback type of guy, but a lot of teams don't have that anymore and a lot of teams don't use a traditional fullback.
“What we have are guys who are athletic and guys who can really run. I'll (take) athleticism and speed (over) the size of a prototypical fullback any day."
And, in Schmeltzer, Kost, McBride and Baron, the Chiefs certainly have athleticism as well as players who are strong and bulldog-tough.
"We're not real big at running back, so the things we do from the running back position are going to be a little bit different than if we had a six-foot, 195-pound running back," Burke said.
Senior Nick Maniskas (5-11, 170) was Logan’s top receiver (17 receptions, 199 yards) last season. The Chiefs lost their next two receivers, meaning Schmeltzer (nine receptions), Kost (six) and Dean Jordan (five) were next in line, mostly out of the backfield or while lined up at tight end.
"We have several wide receivers," Burke said, noting Maniskas, Isiah Smith (6-0, 160), Nathan Cocks (5-9, 155), Evan DeLong (6-3, 175), Casey Phillips (6-0, 135) and Dominick Stevens (5-6, 150) are in the top mix of pass-catchers.
Phillips "was competing for the quarterback position and converted to receiver, and has done a wonderful job stepping up to a new position,” Burke lauded. “We have (six) receivers to play four positions. We're not always going to have four receivers out there, (but they are all) capable of playing."
Maniskas' status for Friday's Lancaster game is up in the air due to a back injury. He might be held out of the Lancaster game for precautionary reasons.
"His back issue is more of a cautionary issue that has the potential to be serious, so we're trying to rest him until the last possible minute," Burke revealed.
Burke declines to name starters because participation depends upon situational packages.
"I wouldn't say we have starters as much as we have situational players," Burke said. "My philosophy is trying to find one-and-a-half-way players; some guys are 1.75-way players, some guys are 1.25-way players. You have guys who can play both offense and defense, (but) how much?
"Let's say we just came off the field defensively and we were out there for awhile," he continued. "I can go into different personnel groupings or send different receivers in for Nick Maniskas or Evan DeLong to give them a break, then I'll have the option of being able to go to four wide-receiver set."
The tight end position was all but extinct during the years the Chiefs ran the spread almost exclusively to their wide receivers. They began reincorporating a tight end last season, and now the Chiefs have a few to choose from.
"We have three capable tight ends, which is really nice to have because some teams struggle to find one," Burke said. "Sometimes you'll see two in the game at the same time; maybe even three since we have three."
A pair of senior newcomers, Kevin Fisher and Gabe Smith, are the primary targets, with junior returning letterman Jordan available as well. Fisher (6-8, 225) and Smith (6-4, 200) are expected to be the big men in the middle for the Chieftain basketball team this winter.
"Two nice-sized, good-looking tight ends," Burke said of Smith and Fisher. "And if we didn't have those two guys, who are sort of prototypical (tight end) bodies, Dean (Jordan, 6-0, 185) would probably be our tight end. (Smith and Fisher) have good size to be tight ends."