Now entering his second season at the helm, Nelson took some time after his first official practice Monday to answer a few questions facing the team as they prepare to battle in the always daunting O-K Red Conference and turn the tide on the Buccaneers' fortunes.
What's been the biggest difference so far in Year Two?
Although Nelson had plenty of experience with the Grand Haven football program before becoming the head coach last fall, there was still a large learning curve for both the varsity and junior varsity teams.
Seniors on last year's team were learning their fourth new system in as many years, so consistency and continuity were not staples of the program. It can't be created overnight, but Nelson saw some promising first steps toward those goals early on in his second go-around as the leader of the program.
"Last year was a big learning year for everybody," said Nelson. "We had to teach all the kids in the program what we wanted them to do, what the tempo had to be at practice and in the games, and there were some growing pains. They were dealing with their fourth new coach in four or five years, so it was a lot of change and not much stability.
"(Monday) was one of our best practices we've ever had in terms of execution and attention to detail, and it was only Day 1. The drills are being run crisper, the time between drills is moving a lot faster and the whole operation is moving along more efficiently. That's exciting as the coach when you see that."
Who will be the Buccaneers' playmakers this year?
Grand Haven was blessed with a stable of experienced playmakers last fall. From quarterback Adam Nelson to tailbacks Charlie Young and Malic Love, the coaching staff didn't have to worry about throwing too new information at the veteran leaders.
The Bucs will also have to replace the leadership of former team captains Caden Striegle, Hunter Spangler, Nate Podein, Nate Perez and Chris Lacour.
This year's squad may have to learn on the fly, as the program tries to replace 26 seniors from last year's team.
"It's going to be a junior-heavy team this year," added Nelson. "We do have a nice core of seniors coming back, and we know they will do a great job, but there are not a lot of them. We were able to recruit a couple of guys that are seniors this year that didn't play last year, and we're hoping they will be able to contribute, as well.
"Collin Takas is doing a really good job for us right now at quarterback. He's got a lot to offer both offensively and defensively. Adam Strom and Owen Krizan are both getting some reps at quarterback, too. We want to recruit a competition at every position because that makes everybody better.
"Connor Worthington will be at fullback, and Owen Krizan will be back there at tailback along with Austin Broemer, Joey Costello and Alex Kaufman. It's fun to see some depth back there. Some of those guys might not end up being a starter, but we'll rotate them in on offense and find spots on defense for them to contribute, as well."
What are the team's goals this fall?
Despite a disappointing win-loss record, the Buccaneers remained resilient in the vast majority of their contests last fall. A lack of depth and injuries slowly diminished the squad into the bottom half of their conference, but that isn't stopping the program from aiming high during the bounce-back campaign.
"We'd love to make the playoffs," Nelson stated. "Our league is obviously going to be extremely tough again this fall. There are some teams in there that are going to be great, and it seems like our conference gets more and more competitive each season. I love that, though, because it makes us better in the long run. If you can beat, the best then you can be the best.
"Our non-league schedule will be very important if we are going to reach that goal. We've got to come out ahead in our first two games of the season to give us a chance to win six games. That's our big goal for the year, but we also want to turn the corner as a program and get kids excited about being a part of this.
The Buccaneers will travel to Portage Northern on Aug. 16 for a scrimmage, before opening their season at Reeths-Puffer on Aug. 24 at 7 p.m.