Just like he has for the past 13 summers, Mike Melnyk opened a high school football training camp this week as a head coach.
Unlike the previous 13 summers however, Melnyk did so this week as the head football coach at Mt. Lebanon.
The former Manheim Township coach took over at Mt. Lebanon in April of this year.
For Melnyk, a 26-year coaching veteran, there is plenty of change this year but plenty of constants, too.
"Every time you get together with a new team it is a little different," Melnyk said. "There is a different staff and different personalities but some things stay the same no matter where you are. You are going to do what you do; you know what you know."
There were some noticeable differences right away when Melnyk met his new team.
"I was impressed. We had a couple linemen who were bigger than our linemen at [Manheim] Township," Melnyk said. "We had a couple kids who were faster than our kids at Township."
In 13 seasons with Manheim Township Melnyk compiled an 80-69 record. Even though he coached in District 3 near Lancaster for the past 13 seasons, he is not a total stranger to the WPIAL. Melnyk would bring his teams to the University of Pittsburgh's seven-on-seven passing camp during summers.
Actually, it was because of Pitt that Melnyk landed at Mt. Lebanon. Former Blue Devils coach Chris Haering left the school after 17 seasons to become the linebackers coach at Pitt under Paul Chryst.
Melnyk retained one assistant from Haering's staff, offensive line coach Tom Stilley.
"Obviously they had a pretty good run game the last few years," Melnyk said.
A lot of the success the running game had could be attributed to the offensive line, but also to Luke Hagy, a two-time Post-Gazette Male Athlete of the Year. In only three seasons Hagy rushed for 4,795 career yards, third-best in WPIAL Class AAAA history. He finished with 72 career touchdowns.
"I talked to Luke's dad the other week and asked him, 'Are you sure he doesn't have another year of eligibility?'" Melnyk joked. "He certainly was a tremendous player.
"As far as this year, it is going to kind of be tailback by committee. We are going to have a lot of guys who are going to get touches."
Someone whom Mt. Lebanon does welcome back is senior Tyler Roth, an all-conference cornerback last season who will also start at quarterback. Roth only attempted one pass last season.
"He is playing well in camp, he is going to learn under fire," Melnyk said.
Roth is also a tremendous punter. Melnyk has a special eye for special teams. He was a place kicker under legendary coach Bo Schembechler at the University of Michigan in the early 1980s.
Melnyk plans on using multiple sets on offense and a base 4-4 defense. Even with the first-year transition under a new coaching staff, Mt. Lebanon's camp is more physical than mental.
"I got here in April and the kids got a chance to get to know me," Melnyk said. "They worked their tails off to get ready and put themselves in a position to be ready for a typical camp. I have been impressed with how physical this team has been."
Melnyk is getting to know plenty about his team. Starting with a major non-conference showdown at home against North Allegheny on Aug. 31, he will start getting to know about other WPIAL teams.
"People keep asking me, 'How do I like my team?' I like my team," Melnyk said. "I just don't know what everybody else has. It is that unknown."
First Published August 23, 2012 4:00 AM