Keith Snyder doesn't mince words when it comes to what he expects from the DeKalb football team's offense this year.
"I feel strong with this speed we are going to be a generational offense," said the second-year coach of the Barbs.
With third-year starter Trenton Kyler at quarterback and speedsters Toriano Tate and Trenton McCollum surrounding him, Snyder said the Barbs are bolstering their offense this year.
Even with Tate hurt most of last year, the Barbs still averaged 31.6 points per game, second in the DuPage Valley. Their season ended with a 55-53 shootout loss to Prospect in the first round of the playoffs.
"To be honest we talked about it as a staff, and we decided that since we have Trenton we are going to go all-in on offense," Snyder said. "So we've moved all our weapons to the offensive side of the ball. All of our chips are in our offense. I really feel this is a pretty special offense."
The Barbs have been taking workouts slow in the IHSA's return to play stages. Snyder said the emphasis has been on remote workouts and team meetings.
Group workouts have been split into offensive and defensive workouts since mid-July.
"Our slogan has been don't let reasons become excuses," Snyder said. "We have kids post their workouts on social media. We have weekly drawings and give out T-shirts. We reward the kids for doing what we as and we're going to find a way to get the job done."
Snyder said that a big chunk of his staff - he and his wife included - were expecting children during the summer, which led to them wanting to play it safe and do less in-person activities.
"I'm proud of our staff working predominantly using Zoom," Snyder said. "We started doing team meetings in June. We decided to stay remote. It was a great job by the staff to put it together and a great job buy the kids of buying in and participating."
Snyder said he's enjoyed the "split-squad" workouts, with the offense going for about an hour in the morning followed by a break and then the defense. He said they may continue with that schedule on a permanent basis.
Head coach: Keith Snyder
Last year's record: 6-4
What will year two in the DVC look like?
DeKalb made the playoffs out of a conference in which every team had an enrollment of at least 1,000 students more than the Barbs. They took third in the conference, losing to Neuqua Valley, 34-30, in the opener. The Wildcats finished 9-2 and that ended up being their closest DVC game of the year.
"I don't think we're going to sneak up on anyone anymore," Snyder said. "I think the important thing is we're learning. Last year was our first year, and we were led by a couple really impressive seniors. But this group has been promising for years. They did special things as freshman and now they are seniors. It's their team and their opportunity to leave a mark on the program. This team has as much firepower as I've ever been a part of on offense."
The Barbs' only other DVC loss was to Naperville Central, 49-16, in Week 8.
"I think with all of Naperville Central's kids rolling through with Division I looks they're probably the pick to click," Snyder said. "But we showed we can not just compete and win. For us to make the next step in 7A, and the DVC, is to be more consistent and pay attention to detail."
Players to Watch
Snyder said not only is Kyler's arm the strongest he's seen in his years of coaching not just at DeKalb but Kaneland, but the senior is getting along great with new offensive coordinator Derek Schneeman.
"They've had a nice rapport so far," Snyder said. "It goes back to the meeting in June and they were able to create a connection through the Zoom. He's got a physical arm that's as strong as I've seen. He's spinning the ball extremely well and that's been really nice to see. He looks like a three-year starting varsity quarterback."
McCollum was a first-team selection in the DVC and named to the Daily Chronicle all-area first team in playing just eight games. Tate saw even less action last year due to an injury. Both were expected to be a part of a loaded DeKalb boys track team in the spring before the season got canceled.
With that core, Snyder said the Barbs are pushing everything to the offense. After focusing at defensive back last year, Kaeden Gunn will mainly play wideout. Linebacker Tucker Ikens will take over the fullback role, and Cole Giradot will move back to the offensive line after a year at nose guard.
Snyder said there are four players - Kyler, Ikens, McCollum and Tate - who can handle 20 carries a game.
Newcomers You Need to Know
Snyder said there's not a ton of room for newcomers - he said there are between 15 and 18 players back who started a game last year.
He did say junior defense tackle Gavin Engh has been impressive in workouts. And freshman Talon Tate is an exciting freshman, Snyder said.
The Barbs don't have the scheduling issues some of the other DVC teams have - Neuqua Valley is playing Waubonsie Valley and Naperville North twice each.
They do have some long trips - after an Evanston trip in Week 1 they head to Belleville West in Week 3, sandwiched around the rivalry game against Sycamore.
Snyder said he's not worried about the trip down south. Last year's trip to Alton in Week 9, a 48-20 win, was a highlight for many players.
"It was an incredible experience for them thanks to the community and the administration," Snyder said. "During exit interviews, they talked about it as a highlight. Getting on the coach buses, getting meals, playing at a cool stadium, doing the walkthrough at ISU in that field. ... You might end up traveling in the 7A playoffs so it's good to develop that mindset."
An Early Take
The Barbs kept their playoff streak alive in Snyder's first year, reaching the playoffs for the seventh straight year. It wasn't something a lot of people expected in the Barbs first year in the DVC.
The schedule maybe a little more conducive this year toward a playoff berth - Evanston and Belleville West each finished 3-6 last year. And while Cahokia and Sycamore are both playoff teams from last year, both are smaller schools.
And then there's the offense. This should be a team that can score points quickly - a skill that was definitely on display in the wild playoff game against Prospect. The offense has only gotten better since, presumably.