First-year Olentangy football coach Wade Bartholomew is a people person.
The Braves are figuring that out fast.
It was, after all, one of the first things Bartholomew told the players after taking over early in the offseason.
“The first thing I wanted to do was show everyone that I am just a person … someone who is just here to help them all on their own journeys to becoming the best version of themselves,” he said. “I think the players are starting to see that I am truly here for them, but to also help them be successful on the football field. I have enjoyed this summer tremendously. The players and coaches have welcomed my family and I with open hearts.”
Bartholomew, despite coming from a completely different program (Bloom-Carroll), said Olentangy will look a lot like it has in the past … just with more of an emphasis on building the person, not the player.
“This team will look similar (than past teams at Olentangy) because we don’t build schemes, we build people,” he said. “We will behave in a similar manner. We will handle adversity, play with passion and effort and compete every play. Schematically, we’ll still be a spread-based offense with the ability to run and pass the ball effectively. We have several talented skilled players, so we want to get them in space.
“Defensively we will look similar to last year because the former defensive coordinator, Brett Thompson, is still in control. We will fly to the ball and play extremely hard every play.”
The Braves will be boosted by their playmakers on offense as running back Evan Rindlaub, tight end Gavin Grover and receiver Jackson Wiley all return to the fold for quarterback Ethan Grunkemeyer. The junior QB nabbed special mention all-league honors a year ago, throwing for more than 2,000 yards to go with 14 touchdowns.
“Our strength offensively should be our skill positions and depth in those spots,” Bartholomew said. “We have several talented receivers, each with the ability to have a breakout game. Our QB will be a big part in our success, not only because of the scheme we run, but also because he is a super talented young man who can change a game.
“Our weakness offensively will be our run game early in the year. We will be young and inexperienced up front. As the year progresses and we gain experience, we will get better and better in the run game.”
Rindlaub will be a key piece on the other side of the ball as well. The senior safety collected 53 tackles and four interceptions as one of the Braves’ top defensive players a year ago.
“Defensively, our strength is going to be our athleticism,” Bartholomew said. “We are going to be able to run to the football as a group. Many of our offensive skill positions are also going to be playing defense, so that will help with experience.
“Our weakness is going to be our depth. We are going to have to develop some young players to step up in key situations as the year goes on.”
Other key pieces back in the fold include Staffan Somers (wide receiver/defensive back), Melvin Lopez-Seranno (offensive line/defensive line), Jameson Rossler (wide receiver/defensive back) and Nixon Smith (offensive line/defensive line).
Olentangy, which finished 3-8 a year ago, has almost an identical schedule as last year’s, with the only change being a Week 5 showdown with Central Crossing instead of Reynoldsburg. Another difference, though, is the Braves are stepping up to Division I this season.
“Our schedule is always going to be tough,” Bartholomew said. “When you are a D-I football program you are going to play a tough schedule every year. Starting off, Westerville South will challenge us to be ready for a very athletic and fast team. Every year South has a very fast, athletic group of players, so we are going to have to find a way to slow them down.
“To be competitive, we’re just going to have to play hard every play, play together and trust everyone in the program — coaches and players. We will lose and win as a team, so we need everyone on the same page and to just trust each other.”