Last November, far before the start of the 2019 season, wide receivers coach Jack Hyland '14 stressed hard work in the offseason to his returning wideouts and tight ends.
Hyland talked about the importance of preparing mentally and physically in the offseason for a grueling schedule that will test the Wildcats. Entering his third season with the wideouts at Saint Ignatius, Hyland had his men read "Chop Wood Carry Water: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great," an inspirational book by Joshua Medcalf.
The results of Hyland's mental and physical preparation of his wide receiver unit is already paying dividends.
"We met back in November and our big thing was committing to the playbook and knowing each of the four positions. They've surpassed all of my expectations, I'm so proud of this group," Hyland said. "It's really coming to fruition with all of the work, mentally and physically in the offseason."
If you're looking for evidence, look only at the Jamboree film. The Wildcats' wideouts performed quite well, making circus catches as well as the simple ones.
"[At the Jamboree], I made minimal corrections. I know it's early, but it's very invigorating to see." Hyland said. "We have great leadership and the kids are making plays."
But as Hyland told his men after the scrimmage vs. Canton McKinley, the hardest workers in the offseason don't always bring home the hardware. To return to Canton in 15 weeks, the Wildcats need to put forth the time and effort each day in practice. And then on gameday, the wideouts and tight ends need to execute and make plays.
Luckily for the Wildcats, the wideouts are led by an absolute gamer – Connor Cmiel.
Cmiel topped the team in receptions (38), yards (830), and receiving touchdowns (6) in an amazing 2018 campaign. The senior didn't lose any speed or ability in the offseason. After great basketball and lacrosse seasons for the Wildcats, Cmiel showcased his athleticism and catching ability in the Jamboree, hauling in a one-handed catch using his helmet and then outmuscled defenders on a jump ball for a touchdown.
Joining Cmiel as the leader of the unit is tight end Sam Daugstrup. As Jack O'Rourke wrote last week, Daugstrup is back from an injury that sidelined him for all of 2018. Henry Cook has also returned from an injury to help lead the way.
"Sam and Connor, I've known since they were in fifth grade at St. Chris, my alma mater," Hyland said. "They make my job so easy. I never have to get on them, they hold the group accountable. Henry is up there as a leader too. Henry is always the guy leading by example, while Connor and Sam are more vocal. They hold each other accountable, it makes my job so much easier."
The last starting spot at wideout is up for grabs currently.
Domenic Fabe and Jack Dunstan will be fighting for playing time to start the year. Fabe missed much of last year to injury, while Dunstan earned playing time as a sophomore with the JV team. Both have plenty of physical gifts.
"Dom Fabe dislocated his elbow on scout team last year, but he's done everything the right way. He's worked his way up. He's competing for a spot with Jack Dunstan," Hyland said. "Last year, we were questioning who would take these two spots. Physically, they've gotten a lot bigger and faster. Those two guys, in particular, are competing for a spot right now. Dunstan and Fabe are doing the right things."
Alec LaSpina and Michael Morgan are the next names up at the spot. The two juniors will be in the mix as needed to supplement a deep spot for the Wildcats.
Other names to watch include Billy and Jimmy Spear, Dominic DeVengencie, Erik Daugenti, and Sebestyen Balassy. Injuries have nagged at some of the wideouts, but the Cats have enough depth to withstand some afflictions.
"I'm very excited for the season. I keep telling the guys, I'm in my fourth season of coaching and I've never been so excited going into a season," Hyland said. "There's so much talent and depth here. They make my job so much easier."