But he’ll have to do it behind a rebuilt offensive line. The Panthers graduated both guards and the center from last year’s unit. Jacob Nutt takes over at center, with Jalen Snell and Ethan Morris playing on either side.
The tackles are returning starters Chase Duncan and Hayden Ferguson.
Elwood also lost starting quarterback Austin Dauenhauer, who threw for 975 yards and 13 touchdowns last season to help lead the Panthers to an 8-3 record and the Central Indiana Conference championship.
He’ll be replaced by Mireles’ younger brother, Alex, who will direct a read-option attack. Senior Bryce Graves, who had 214 yards and four touchdowns on just 28 carries last year, will join Sammy Mireles in a two-back rushing attack.
Most plays will include an option for either running back to carry the ball or for Alex Mireles to keep it himself. Many could also include a passing element with seniors London Leavell (19 catches for 492 yards and 7 scores in 2012) and Jared Bourff (15, 239, 3) as the most likely targets.
All of which is designed to keep defenses guessing even as the focus remains on Sammy Mireles.
“It’s like I always tell the kids, ‘I’m not the smartest guy in the world, but I am in the top 10,’” Wells said. “Sammy’s gonna get his touches, I can guarantee that.”
Elwood’s own defense could be the key to the team’s chances of repeating in the CIC. Senior Anthony Bennett is playing for the first time since his freshman season and will line up as a 6-foot-4, 325-pound nose guard.
He’ll be flanked on the defensive line by Derek Bryant and Duncan. Bourff and Graves return as starters at outside linebacker, and Ryan French and Gage Brown will start inside. The secondary includes Leavell and Alex Mireles at safety with Dakota Cole and Stephen Helpling as the cornerbacks.