"We're just continuing to try and get stronger," Coach Day said. "We had a great first year and we've made a lot of strides. We're actually in testing right now and they're doing a really nice job. We just have to continue to become stronger and more athletic. Last year we made some strides, but our intention isn't to be close. Our intention is to win those games and we were only able to do that in one of the four MCC games."
"Against DeSmet we came down to the last minute and a half in good game, and against Chaminade we came down to the last possession of the game as well so we just have to continue to get better and work on the things we can control. I think everybody in our conference right now is really chasing CBC, so we've got a little ground to make up there, but we're doing what we need to do to close that gap I hope," he continued.
Taking over the Vianney job after spending 15 years coaching Fort Zumwalt West, Day understood that there would be challenges. To this point, though, he feels like he has been able to take it all in stride.
"It's pretty much what I expected, from a standpoint of where the program was," said Day. "The strength and speed stuff, we have a long way to go and I think we are making strides to get better at that. Other than that our kids are really good kids, so they do whatever we ask them to do and we're working on every week becoming tougher physically and mentally. Our kids made huge strides last year from the first day of camp in the summer to where we were at the end of the year. We were a totally different team and I was really pleased with that. Now we've just got to keep learning how to close things out and win some close games."
A key to last year's success for the Golden Griffins was the play of Iowa signee Markel Smith. With Smith leaving, Vianney will have to figure out a way to replace 2604 total yards and 35 touchdowns.
"We'll probably have a couple kids that are splitting duty, at least at running back," Day said about his plan to replace Smith's production. "Jordon Hardwick can play some running back for us and we've got some younger kids that I think will do okay filling in as well. The secondary for us is really where we lose most of our kids and replacing those kids, T.J Valenza and Zach Roseman, is going to be very very difficult. That's what I'm the most eager to see. We return six of the front seven defensively, so we're going to be very good upfront on defense. The key for us is can we be physical and slow people down on the back-end and we're doing the things right now to get there, but we won't know till we hit the summer."
Going in to the 2014 season, Vianney will be led by seniors Hardwick and South Carolina commit Kyle Markway. Both players were being recruited by Mizzou or are being recruited by Mizzou, but neither has a Tiger offer at this point. Those two are not the only players that Coach Day and the Golden Griffins will be looking at to step up, though.
"There's several really good kids that are probably not going to be high-level college football kids, but they're going to be great high school football players. We've got a kid that is recruitable that will play tackle for us, Mitch Yant. He's 6-foot-5 about 255 pounds, so he's got good length and he's an explosive kid," he said. "We also have a two-year starter at the other tackle, Liam Studdard, that will be his third year starting. Did a really good job for us last year on the offensive line and as a defensive lineman, so we're really excited about him. Other than those guys we got several kids defensively that have played for a couple years. A couple young kids that are really taking off in our strength program that played for us last year as sophomores are going to be really good players. We'll also see a couple freshmen that have done a good job in the off season."
With May being an evaluation month for college coaches, high schools across the country are getting a lot of visitors stopping by and checking in on the best prospects. St. John Vianney is no different.
"It's been really crazy. Jordon just got his first 1A offer, so his thing is going to take off. Talked to a couple people in the MAC conference in the last week and every one of them is like, 'Can't believe he doesn't have more offers.' I think he'll end up having a lot of options before he's done and because of that everyone's through. Then the Division Two schools are coming through and I think a lot of them are after our young offensive tackle. Some kids are following them hopefully," explained Day.
Despite Missouri not having offered either of his top two players, Day has still heard from the Tiger coaches. And, despite the usual talk to the contrary, he still believes the home state school does a good job recruiting the St. Louis region.
"We sent Carl Gettis up there first, and he was a four-year starter. Then we sent T.J. Moe," Day said. "There's absolutely no difference between the relationship with the guys from Missouri than there was back then. Cornell [Ford] is in here two or three times a year, Gary [Pinkel] comes in usually once every year, so for me its not a big deal at all. We have great relationships and they really recruited Markel hard. Theres no difference in that at all."