MANCHESTER -- Followers of the Southern Vermont Storm will notice some significant changes when the team returns to the gridiron this season.
Patrick Seaver replaces coach Tighe Stratton on the sidelines. Stratton will instead be suiting up for the team this year, doubling as a wide receiver and defensive back.
Another key change comes at the quarterback position where Will Cole -- who in the past has played tight end and linebacker -- will replace J.C. LeBarron who moved to Georgia in the offseason.
"He's a great quarterback. I'm sad to say we had to lose him as a wide receiver and a tight end, but I mean he's definitely making up for it. [He's] just taking control of the team and he can make plays on the run and make it happen," Seaver said of Cole. "J.C. was good too, but Will, I'm 100 percent confident in [him]. He's good and he can take a hit. He's not going to be one of those quarterbacks that's going to go down easy."
While Mike Woodson returns to the backfield this year for the Storm, the team has lost running back Ken Cross -- who along with Woodson -- formed a dynamic tandem last year. He will be replaced by Greg Wescott and Seaver said he believes that they will be solid at the position.
"He compliments Mike Woodson very well," said Seaver.
One of LeBarron's top targets last year, Marcus Anderson, returns another year with the team to help anchor what Seaver indicated was a pretty strong receiving core.
With what appears to be a pretty balanced team on the offensive side of the ball, Seaver said he expects the Storm to keep other teams on their toes.
"Marcus can catch, Woodson can run. The other running backs can run just as good as Woodson, if not better, and some of the other receivers they're just as good as Marcus or better," said Seaver.
Another significant difference in this year's team is the offensive line, which Seaver believes will have a big impact.
"[One of] our biggest strong points this year is that our offensive line is actually big. Normally in the past we've all been on the small side and this year, even our defensive line, they're bigger guys," said Seaver. "Finally for once we actually have a solid line. They work good together."
The team has several members returning on the defensive side of the ball -- some of whom are also playing on offense or special teams as well.
The team had their first -- and only -- preseason game against the Glens Falls Greenjackets last month, which Seaver indicated was not only a big test, but also gave him a good indication about the quality of his defense.
"They were by far one of the bigger teams we've actually played [physically] size wise and we held our own against them," Seaver said. "A lot of people in the stands they were impressed with how our defense was able to stop them. It was like David and Goliath. For the most part our defensive backs and everyone else, they're smaller. They're strong, they have big heart[s] and they don't stop."
One factor that will play into the success of the team this year is if they can remain healthy as the team has struggled with numbers.
"The numbers aren't well this year," said Seaver. "We usually carry about 45-50. This year, we're lucky to have 30 between injuries and stuff. For the most part though, I think we'll be alright."
The team will start their season on the road at Norwich University on Saturday, July 19, when they face the Ravens.
The team's home opener will take place in week two on Saturday, July 26, at Schulerville Central School against the Kings. They will be in the same location the following week -- Aug. 2 -- for their second home game against the Marauders.
The team will play a home game against the Beavers at Spinelli Field in Bennington on Aug. 23 and they will conclude the regular season with their only home game at Applejack Field on Sept. 27. All home games begin at 7 p.m. For a full schedule or more information visit www.southernvermontstorm.com or check out the Storm's Facebook page.