Kyle McKenna has already made one thing known to his players: Last year’s success will not necessarily carry over.
Brooklyn Tech might have gone 6-3, made the playoffs and defied expectations in the coach’s first season. But that was 12 months ago. The personnel is different now and so is the outlook.
“It’s a new season,” McKenna said. “Nothing is promised to you. You have to earn whatever you got in 2010. … I told them we’re going back to the drawing board, carving out our own legacy. We have to get back on our own merit to the playoffs again.”
The Engineers will have to do all that without two-way linchpins like Tarrance Taylor, Denzel McLarty, Oyeleye Odewunmi and Antoine Cummins, all of whom played in the Outback Steakhouse Empire Challenge for the New York City team back in June.
Luckily for them, they have back another all-city two-way player – although he’ll be in a different role. Senior Mike Plonski, who was named to The Post’s All-City second team a year ago, played center and defensive line last season, but shed some weight to become leaner and quicker. Now, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Plonski, who has interest from schools like Buffalo and Cornell, will line up at right tackle on offense and linebacker on defense.
“His body is more in a linebacker mold for the next level,” McKenna said. “He translates better to SAM linebacker. … He’s gonna be all over the place. He’s really versatile and has increased his speed a great deal. And he was fast before.”
Brooklyn Tech’s defense, which the program has been known for, will again be guided by guru Jerome Brown, who enters his 17th year as coordinator. He will have plenty to work with, including two-way linemen Rene Modeste (6-3, 255) and Kevin Loh (6-0, 263). Chris Francis is expected to start at middle linebacker alongside Plonski and the secondary will rely on free safety Babatunde Adeyemi, strong safety Mazaharul Islam and corners Waleed Jalil and James Gales, a promising sophomore.
“He’s great,” McKenna said of Brown. “Some of the things that he does with these guys is just lights-out stuff. To have that on one side of the ball and have them more comfortable with the offense is just great this year.”
That offense doesn’t have a quarterback yet — Jalil and junior Kevi Shyti are competing for the job – but it has pieces. Gino Nadela, who was third string behind Taylor and McLarty, will get most of the touches out of the backfiled. He came on toward the end of last season and had 75 yards rushing against Sheepshead Bay in Week 8
“We’re expecting big things from him,” McKenna said. … “I think we have to have a good running game. It’s one of the things we hang our hat on and we have to improve our passing game from last year.”
Whoever plays quarterback should get enough time to throw. Along with Plonski, Loh, Modeste and Phillip Choe (5-7, 242) will anchor the offensive line.
“We feel like we have a real good line coming back,” McKenna said. “I definitely think that’s one of our main strengths.”
But more than anything, Brooklyn Tech has more continuity this year. McKenna’s first season is under his belt and although he’s been tinkering and improving things here and there, the players are used to his system.
Does that mean the Engineers could be better? McKenna wouldn’t take it that far.
“I think the big thing last year was that we were doing a lot of stuff for the first time,” he said. “Now once you’re getting into year two, you’re crossing a lot of the same paths you did previously. There’s a little bit of a comfort level now for me.”
And for his players.