Coach: Jerry Bell, first year
Last season: 13-1, 7-0 TRAC
Returning letter winners: 13
Returning starters: Offense 5, defense 6
Top players: Seniors Nate Holley, 6-1, 180, LB; Jack Linch, 6-0, 200, LB; Matt Bodeman, 6-2, 190, WR; Nick Holley, 6-0, 180, QB-S; Marquise Moore, 6-1, 290, DT; Eric Hart, 5-10, 270, OL. Juniors Marcus Elliott, 6-2, 185, DB; Chris Boykin, 6-2, 175, WR.
Outlook: No TRAC team lost more top talent than the Panthers, who graduated four players who received All-Ohio recognition. Chris Wormley (DE) and Jody Webb (RB) were two-time Division I first-teamers who are now playing in college at Michigan and Toledo, respectively. Mark Meyers (DB) and Storm Stanley (OT) joined them on the first team, and are at Michigan State and Toledo, respectively. Alonzo Lucas (WR) was a third-team all-stater, and LeRoy Alexander (RB/DB) is at Nebraska.
Also gone is head coach Joe Palka, now the head coach and athletic director at Saline (Mich.), and his son, Tyler, who was a junior quarterback last season. But the cupboard is not bare. Bell takes over after 12 years as a Whitmer assistant.
Linch, Moore and the Holley twins lead what promises to be a solid defense, and Bell points to his kicking game as a strength. Finding players to fill the skill spots on offense on par with the 2011 team will be a challenge. The Panthers still commanded enough respect to be picked third in the TRAC, even with the prominent departures.
"There are a lot of holes to fill from last year's team," Bell said. "We are going to rely on our senior class to lead our team to a successful 2012 football season."
2012 WHITMER SCHEDULE
Aug. 24-at Start
Aug. 31-Detroit Catholic Central
Sep. 7-Ft. Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers
Sep. 14-St. Francis
Sep. 21-at St. John's
Sep. 28-at Clay
Oct. 12-at Fremont Ross
Oct. 19-Lima Senior
Oct. 26-at Central Catholic