Guards Coach Rolando Aguirre said Shirley should have his share of touches this season.
"He is just a super athlete, and he's been in the weight room getting stronger. We want to make sure we use him as much as possible," Aguirre said. "Actually, we will try to run the offense around him, because he can be dangerous when he has the ball."
Aguirre has changed up the Bell-Jeff offense a bit from a year ago. The Guards will operate out of a scheme that utilizes the shotgun, with slotbacks running sweeps and misdirection plays.
"We plan to use a lot of motion," said Aguirre, whose team finished third in the Santa Fe League (6-5) and lost in the first round of the Northeast playoffs to Boron, 36-25. "We are looking to open things up and hopefully keep the other team guessing."
Another key returner will be senior receiver Kevin Yuenyongsakul (6-1, 180). He will also handle the team's punting duties.
Running the offense is senior Chris Issakanian (5-10, 145), who takes over the position. In the Guards' offensive scheme, Aguirre said Issakanian will have a lot of options, which includes running the ball when he sees an opening.
"He loves to run," Aguirre said of his signal-caller. "He just needs to make the right decisions when he is pressured."
Pacing the running game will be senior Mario Marquez (5-9, 165). He will be joined by sophomore Joshua Martinez (5-8, 155).
The Guards should have some talented offensive linemen. The tight end will be senior Robert Gomez (5-9, 160) and he will be joined by senior right guard Mikey Garcia (6-0, 190), sophomore left guard Geraldo Paz (5-7, 275), senior right tackle Eric Lopez (5-8, 265) and senior left tackle Julian Stephens (5-9, 160).
Aguirre said many of the linemen will also play on defense.
"The key for us is being able to get the line ready," Aguirre said. "I know we have an early game, and we really need to get them up to speed. If we don't, that's going to be a very big problem for us."
Joining Shirley in the secondary will be Marquez, Martinez and Yuenyongsakul. The linebacking duties will fall upon Gomez, senior Robert Guevara (5-9, 175), sophomore Mike Gomez (5-11, 165) and Garcia.
The team's kicker will be senior David Bustillos (5-7, 155).
"We have about 27 players right now," Aguirre said. "That's a little more than the 23 we had last year. We are just hoping to stay healthy and keep the guys that we have."
In Santa Fe League competition, Aguirre said he expects defending champion Salesian to be the favorite.
"Salesian will be tough," he said. "They just have a lot of numbers and they get the players out."
The Guards open the season at 7 p.m. Saturday in a nonleague Zero Week game against Saddleback Valley Christian at Memorial Field.