FRANKLIN – There's a sense of optimism around the Franklin men's soccer team as the Grizzlies prepare to embark on the 2017 with a clean slate across the program. At the helm of it all is first year head coach Cody Graman, who was named the program's new head coach back in February. Graman played for the Grizzlies for four years and served as an assistant for the last three seasons.
Graman has noted that his familiarity with the program and with the players has made his transition to his new role as smooth as possible.
"Like any new job, getting used to the new surroundings has been kind of hectic," Graman said. There's a lot more responsibility that comes with this as to just being an assistant and the guys have been great in helping that transition. After playing with these guys then working with them as an assistant, that has made things much easier."
The biggest area of emphasis for Graman in his new role has been shoring up the team's back end. The Grizzlies have three seniors in goalkeeper Garrett Belden, center back Ben Tierney and center mid Mason Krupa that make up the spine of the team's defense. Junior Trey Floyd and freshman Weston DeShon will also be featured in the back with Andrew Vidal and Cody Coppess back as holding midfielders.
No matter the formation being deployed, the Grizzlies have a solid foundation on the back end that is expected to set the table for keeping the ball out of the net this year.
"We want to be able to rely on those three seniors to set the tone with how we play in our own end," Graman added. "We want to emphasize stability, organization and our formation on the back end and those three are a huge part of it. If you don't allow a goal, you don't lose a game and that has been the area that we've focused on the most dating back to last spring."
On the offensive side, the Grizzlies will turn to their depth to find ways to put the ball in the net. The team welcomes back a trio of returning strikers in Sam Stallsmith, Tyler Majeski and Mason May, as well as last year's leading goal scorer in midfielder Luke Oliver.
Jordan Thomas saw action in all 17 games in the attacking midfield a year ago and will look to take another step forward in 2017. Junior Matt Powell and freshmen Danny Roche, Jacob Thompson and Trevor Bray all bring depth to a crowded Franklin attacking corps.
No matter who is out on the pitch for the Grizzlies this year, they will have earned the right to be there. In order to build the program in his image, Graman noted that he needed to hit the reset button and give all of his players a clean slate. That means all 11 starting positions are up for grabs, a fact that every player has embraced.
"I know that our guys are going to be ready to go because everyone has a blank canvas to work with. No starting spot is guaranteed and all the guys are going to be able to make an impact if they earn it. Everyone is going to have a fresh start and we know we're going to be able to rely on every guy that earns his minutes."
The Grizzlies open up the 2017 season on Friday, Sept. 1 when they battle the Wabash College at Faught Stadium. Kick-off is set for 4:00 p.m.