2013 high school football preview: Bear River Bears' collection of offensive linemen among the best

Published: Monday, Aug. 5 2013 8:25 p.m. MDT

Deseret News: Bear River Bears preview

Note: Bear River finished with a 7-5 overall record in 2012 and was third in Region 11 with a 4-2 record. It lost to Desert Hills 23-17 in the 3A quarterfinals.

2012 Bear River statistical recap

GARLAND — There’s no shortage of optimism at Bear River High these days, and for good reason.

Now in his 12th season at Bear River, coach Chris Wise believes this year’s collection of offensive linemen is the best he’s had since 2004 — when the Bears won a 3A state title with a 13-0 record.

“Those guys were good 'cause they were huge,” said Wise. “These guys are big and have great feet and they have experience.”

Four of this year’s offensive linemen are returning starters, and Wise said the fifth could’ve also been a starter but the coaching staff wanted him to focus on the defensive side of the ball last year.

Anchoring the group is Justus Wise, the coach’s son. The three other returning starters are Branson Fonnesbeck, Braden Pugsley and Carson Gibbs. Parker Lewis is the lone newcomer.

Bear River averaged a little less than 30 points per game last year (ninth in 3A) behind that offensive line, and even though the Bears must replace standout quarterback Kyle Zundel, veteran leadership in the trenches is a great foundation to start with.

“Any time you have a good offensive line, you’re going to be good offensively,” said coach Wise.

That offensive line was overmatched in losses to Stansbury, Pine View and Desert Hills last season, and those will be among the same teams standing in the Bears’ way this year.

Staying healthy will be key.

“I know I sound like a broken record, but up here it’s about staying healthy. We’re really working hard in the weight room and hopefully we can stay healthy that way because we don’t have a whole lot of depth,” said Wise.

The team definitely needs Jardee Nessen to stay healthy.

The senior is taking over for Zundel at quarterback, and he’s trying to replace someone who rushed for 936 yards and passed for 1,819 yards last season. Wise said the offense will definitely need to be tweaked with the quarterback change.

“We’re going to have to do it a different way. Zundel was playing QB because he was my best runner. Jardee is a good runner, but he’s not as physical as Zundel,” said Wise, who still believes the offense can be just as productive.

The return of Jeremie Selman is a big reason why. Now a senior, Selman is a powerful and fast back who rushed for 577 yards and seven touchdowns last year. He only had 88 rushing attempts, and if he stays healthy that workload may double or triple.

The other player Wise hopes to lean on offensively is senior receiver Colton Jensen. A year ago he hauled in 39 catches for 754 yards and six touchdowns, and bigger things are expected from the Wes Welker-type receiver.

“He’s tiny, but tough as nails,” said Wise.

Selman will be just as key on the defensive side of the ball as he’s expected to start at defensive end opposite Lewis.

Finding a replacement at nose guard is the biggest concern defensively. The Bears were a top seven defense last year in 3A thanks in large part to Christian Lemus. He was a road block that could shut down both gaps. Wise acknowledges that it might take a nose tackle and a linebacker to replace Lemus’ productivity.

In a region with run-first and run-often teams like Juan Diego, Stansbury and Park City, the Bears can’t afford to be soft against the run if they hope to compete for the 3AA North title.