BELLAIRE - Jose Davis was called a miracle worker by most for the job he did in bringing Bellaire football back to respectability last season.
Without much returning for the 2010 campaign, Davis and his veteran staff made the required adjustments as the Big Reds charged to a 6-4 finish and narrowly missed a Division IV playoff berth.
Now, entering his third year at his alma mater's helm, Davis still finds himself in a rebuilding-type mode.
''I'm excited about this year,'' Davis said. ''We've got a lot of guys coming back that played quite a bit, but we also lost some quality players.
''It's kind of like last season a little bit. We're going to be asking a lot of younger guys to step up and step into different roles.''
One of those young players is sophomore Spencer Badia (5-foot-9, 158 pounds), who lettered last year as a receiver but is being moved to quarterback. Davis has liked what he has seen thus far.
''So far, so good,'' the former Kent State record-setting quarterback said. ''Spencer is working hard and trying to grasp everything that we've been teaching him. He's putting in the time that he needs to understand what's going on.''
As far as a backup, Davis said there are several older kids that are working there in different situations. He declined to divulge any names, but did say that freshman Tyler Ramsey (5-11, 165) would handle the junior varsity and freshman games.
Badia will be replacing graduated Anthony Rocchio, who enjoyed an outstanding senior season - his only one - under center. Rocchio, who is attending Waynesburg University to play baseball, passed for 2,318 yards and 27 touchdowns.
One position that Davis is pleased with is running back where returning lettermen Josh Davis and Logan Koshenka. Davis, a 5-9, 150-pound senior, led the Big Reds in rushing a season ago and will be called upon to lead them again.
''Josh is a hard-nosed kid that will play on both sides of the ball,'' Coach Davis said. ''He's got a little bit of speed if he gets some room.''
Koshenka, a 5-10, 160-pound junior who was a little banged up a year ago, will handle much of the blocking while getting his fair share of carries.
''Like Josh, Logan will also see a lot of time on defense,'' Davis added. ''We will be counting on a lot from Logan.''
Senior Manny Ray (5-9, 140) could be added to the mix. Ray had 41 rushes for 228 yards and a pair of TDs last season. He also caught 41 passes for 461 yards and two more scores.
Others expected to see action in the offensive backfield are junior Nick Maffe (5-10, 165) and freshmen Tyler West (5-9, 140), Dom Vinka (5-9, 145) and Bruce Burger (5-10, 170).
When Bellaire takes to the air, Badia will have a bevy of talent in which to throw to. Sophomore Nick Patrone (5-10, 150) is a returning letterman that Davis is high on.
However, one glaring absence on the Big Reds' flanks is the graduated Devin Ward, who earned first team all-state and All-Valley status after catching 68 passes for more than 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns.
''Nick played a lot last year for us and got some valuable experience,'' Davis said. ''He will be looked to often.''
Davis also likes the speed of Ray and the talent of senior Chuckie Myers (6-1, 195). Myers finished with 16 receptions for 382 yards and five scores.
In addition, the third-year coach also mentioned a few kids that didn't play last season, but have come out this year in senior Juwan Whetstone (5-9, 160), junior Quinton Crosby (5-10, 150) and senior Dylan Frizzi (5-9, 155). Crosby played as a freshman, while Frizzi is out for the first time.
Others that could lineup at wideout include: senior Derek Bradshaw (6-2, 180); sophomores Kyle Hess (6-0, 145), Robert Kovalyk (6-2, 180), Collin Nolan (5-9, 120), Brendon Ross (5-10, 155), Kenny Hess (5-9, 150) and Myliek Green (5-10, 150); and freshmen Hunter Westlake (6-0, 155), Chace Braden (5-9, 130) and Jonathan Longwell (5-9, 140).
Davis also said that Bradshaw and Westlake could fill in in the backfield, as well.
''I feel pretty blessed to have that many offensive weapons back,'' Davis said. ''We have some depth and experience and the kids seem to have a feel for what we're trying to do.''
As for the offensive line, the Big Reds lost some quality in Josh Tolliver, Pete Wiggins and Mike Wallace, but they have some athletes to rebuild around.
''Our line has been a work in progress so far because we are moving some kids around,'' Davis said.
Back for a fourth season are senior veterans Fred ''Storm'' Hocker (6-3, 260), Christian Edmond (5-10, 190), Nick McMahon (6-1, 195) and Anthony Vinka (5-10, 180).
''Storm has lettered for three years, and we are really expecting big things out of him,'' Davis said. ''Christian and Anthony started half the season for us last year, while Nick was our tight end that we've moved to tackle.''
Davis pointed out that Bellaire will not be a ground-and-pound team, so moving guys around will be ongoing.
''We, as a staff, sat down the day after Thanksgiving and put each player's name on the board,'' he recalled. ''We charted what each player needed to work on over the offseason, and where they would be better suited to help us.''
Following the brainstorming, the staff decided to move junior Dalton Conroy (6-0, 210) from quarterback to the offensive line because of his size and athletic abilities. That was just one of the moves that they are hoping will pay big dividends.
''These players have been so unselfish with all the moves,'' Davis said. ''A kid like Dalton, for example, has been a quarterback all his life. But we asked him to move to the line and he embraces it with open arms.
''He's actually made phenomenal strides so far.''
McMahon is another one of the moved players who has accepted his new role with no qualms.
''My hat goes off to these kids,'' Davis said. ''You can't have your good athletes sitting on the bench. They need to be on the field.''
Other possible linemen include: juniors Jonathan Carter (5-10, 245) and Vince Kolenich (5-10, 260); sophomores Seth Pickens (5-10, 190), James Dunfee (5-10, 180), Jeff Nelson (5-10, 155), Wyatt Back (5-10, 210) and Ryan Callarik (6-1, 195); and freshmen Josh Materkoski (6-0, 205), Cody LaRoche (5-11, 210), Jacob Mounsey (5-9, 170), Michael Kovalyk (5-9, 185) and Carl Lynch (5-9, 225).
''I know we still have to run the ball to win games, but that makes the transition smoother will all of the position changes,'' Davis said
On the defensive side of things, Davis said a lot of the same names will be seeing action on this side of the ball.
''People will say 'we lost a lot of size,' but if you look back at the Tolliver kid he was only about 205 or 210,'' Davis said. ''He was cut up and physical. We've got a couple of kids with size, but what we lack in size we have to make up for with our speed and quickness.
''We need to get more than two or three guys to the ball on every play.''
Names like Hocker, McMahon, Vinka and Edmond will be mainstays along the defensive front seven. McMahon and Edmond could line up at the ends, with Hocker at one tackle and Vinka at an inside linebacker spot.
Other line candidates include: Carter, Conroy, Materkoski, Pickens, LaRoche, Mounsey, Kovalyk, Nelson, Back, Callarik, Lynch and Kolenich.
Joining Vinka at linebacker will be Myers, Koshenka, Burger, Vinka and West.
The defensive backfield will be headed by Josh Davis, Patrone, Ray, Crosby, Westlake, Bradshaw, Frizzi, Whetstone, Hess, Kovalyk, Nolan, Maffe, Ross, Braden, Ross, Green and Longwell.
As for special teams, Davis is pleased to have Conroy back for his third season as the placekicker/punter.
''It's big in the preseason to have an already proven kicker,'' Davis said. ''Dalton has a big leg, and that could benefit us in close games.''
While Davis enjoyed success as a Big Red in Division IV, this year's squad has dropped to Division V because of declining enrollment, which has drawn mixed emotions from the head coach.
''It could help us in the long run if we are winning and our opponents are winning,'' he said. ''But when we're playing in the Buckeye 8, we're not playing D-5 schools every week and it's not helping us.''
Davis knows that the first half of the season could be make-or-break for the Big Reds. After playing host to Wheeling Central at Nelson Field in Week 1, they will be road warriors for the next four weeks. They hit the road to John Marshall, Steubenville Catholic, Buckeye Local and Indian Creek.
''We've got the same schedule as in year's past, but it is just switched around because of the Buckeye 8,'' Davis said. ''The first five weeks are going to be very important, especially since we did so well at home last season.''
Bellaire was a perfect 4-0 on its home turf in 2010.
With the way last season played out when there were little, if any, expectations placed upon the team, Davis said the players' attitudes during the preseason have drastically changed.
''There's a huge improvement from last year,'' he said. ''There are expectations for this team now, but that could be good or bad. There's pressure from the community to win and we as coaches have put some pressure on the kids.''
Davis said his goal when he took the job was to make Bellaire football competitive again.
''We're not anywhere near that point, but we are gaining momentum and working to get back towards respectability,'' he said.
So, what kind of outlook does he have for the 2011 Big Reds?
''A lot of things depend on staying healthy,'' he said. ''I'm confident about the players we have returning and their experience, but with that being said, I'm also comfortable with the confidence level that they bring.
''Last year at this time, there were a lot of things I wasn't sure of. I didn't know who our quarterback would be. I didn't know who our wide receivers would be in addition to Devin, and there were a lot of holes up front.
''This season I am more sure about certain positions. I'm excited about this season because we seem to match up pretty well with everyone on our schedule.''
The Big Reds have the same veteran coaching staff that includes Adam Shallcross, Bruce Stoltz, Ed Miller, Justin Green, Jack Evans, William ''Bee Bee'' Marinacci, Fred Kimbro, Gary Sechrest, Mike Olak, Chris Balog, Ty Masciarelli and Ryan McMahon.
Shawn Valloric, who also serves as the Big Reds' head track coach, has also been added to this year's staff.
''Shawn will make a big contribution to our staff,'' Davis said. ''He has been coaching for long time and can add input on what he likes to do and what he sees.''
Derek Bradshaw, Josh Davis, Christian Edmond, Dylan Frizzi, Storm Hocker, Nick McMahon, Chuck Myers, Kirk Ray, Anthony Vinka and Juwan Whetstone.
Jonathan Carter, Dalton Conroy, Quinton Crosby, Vince Kolenich, Logan Koskenka and Nick Maffe.
Wyatt Back, Spencer Badia, Ryan Callarik, James Dunfee, Myliek Green, Kenny Hess, Kyle Hess, Robert Kovalyk, Jeff Nelson, Collin Nolan, Nick Patrone, Seth Pickens and Brendon Ross.
Chace Braden, Bruce Burger, Michael Kovalyk, Cody LaRoche, Jonathan Longwell, Carl Lynch, Josh Materkoski, Jacob Mouncey, Tyler Ramsay, Dom Vinka, Tyler West and Hunter Westlake.
Aug. 27: Wheeling Central12:30 p.m.
Sept. 2: at John Marshall7:30 p.m.
Sept. 10: at Steub. Catholic7 p.m.
Sept. 16: at Buckeye Local7 p.m.
Sept. 23: at Indian Creek7 p.m.
Oct. 1: St. Clairsville12:30 p.m.
Oct. 8: Harrison Central12:30 p.m.
Oct. 14: at Union Local7:30 p.m.
Oct. 22: Edison12:30 p.m.
Oct. 29: Martins Ferry12:30 p.m.
Win 5, Lose 5