As with many small-school teams in Iowa, how Grundy Center develops at running back and other skill areas will determine how successful Coach Brent Thoren's 2017 season is. The Spartans return all five offensive linemen, but they must develop a running game to be competitive. While Bryce Flater was one of the state's top rushers last year, his graduation leaves Grundy Center with a void in the backfield.

2017 SEASON PROSPECTUS: GRUNDY CENTER SPARTANS

2016 RECORD: 6-3 Overall / 4-4 District
2016 PLAYOFFS: Did Not Qualify

HEAD COACH: Brent Thoren
School Record (Years): 24-24 (5)
Career Record (Years): 59-27 (8)

2016 STARTERS RETURNING (10):
Nolan Freeman, OL
Cade Rohler, OL
Josh Kuiper, OL
Jordan Hook, OL/DL
Jake Bangasser, QB
Sawyer Bowen, WR
Andrew Rathe, Defense
Tanner Appel, Defense
Austin Knaack, Defense
Aaron Havens, Defense

OTHER 2016 LETTERWINNERS RETURNING (5):
Tanner Phillips, DE
Jesse Mackie
Cam Steenhoek
Caleb Kuiper
Payton McMartin

KEY LOSSES FROM 2016 SEASON:
Bryce Flater, RB/LB - 2,039 rushing yards, 148 receiving yards, 36 TDs / 53.0 tackles

HOW COACH THOREN VIEWS UPCOMING SEASON

Team Strength Entering 2017:
Offensive line (all five starters return)

Concerns Heading Into 2017:
All skill positions and running back depth. Depth at all positions, especially on defense. Special teams.

Opponents Expected To Compete For Class-A District 3 Title In 2017:
West Hancock of Britt, Mason City Newman and Saint Ansgar are favorites to content for the district title. Saint Ansgar was a state semifinalist in 2016 and returns a large portion of its offensive line. Newman also has several experienced offensive linemen returning, along with several players at the skill positions. West Hancock returns two 1st Team All-State selections. West Hancock and Saint Ansgar are both ranked among the top-five teams in Iowa in many preseason polls.