GARLAND -- He's biased, he admits it. But Chris Wise loves his offensive linemen.
In fact, the longtime Bear River coach is downright giddy when he starts talking about the beef up front, especially the talented group he's got this year.
"They're treated like rock stars around here because that's what they are," said Wise, himself a former lineman. "Nothing goes unless they do it."
And make no mistake, the Bears expect to go places this season with five studs leading the way, including four returning starters. The fifth was also a starter a year ago, but on the other side of the ball.
In the center is the coach's kid, Justus Wise. At right guard is Branson Fonnesbeck.
"Those two together are just great," Coach Wise said.
Rounding out the line are left guard Carson Gibbs and tackles Braden Pugsley and Parker Lewis.
What makes these guys so good?
"Trust. It's a thing that a lot of people take for granted," Wise said. "But you can't be great at zone blocking, you can't be a great pass protecting line without trust. These guys have known each other since they were babies and they trust each other. They know that the other guy's doing their job and they don't have to worry about it. They don't second guess that their back's protected. That's a huge thing, trust."
The Bears trust that the line will open up holes for star running back Jeremie Selman, who rushed for 577 yards last season, including 398 yards in the last three games alone. The linemen will also be doing their best to protect new quarterback Jardee Nessen, who takes over for Kyle Zundel, who was lost to graduation.
"Jardee Nessen has stepped into the quarterback spot and done an outstanding job," Wise said. "The stuff that we're doing now, it's like it was invented for Jardee Nessen. He's a kid with a lot of swagger and is a great leader. How he feels about things and how he looks at things is how our team looks at things. I don't know that we're going to lose a lot from last year. We're definitely going to miss Kyle Zundel, but at the same time, Jardee brings a lot to the table."
If Nessen can get the ball to quick-as-a-cat wide receiver Colton Jensen, and if Selman can do what his teammates are expecting of him, then they'll have the offensive line to thank. And if that happens, watch out for Bear River down the stretch.
This season the Bears move into the newly-created, just-for-football 3-AA classification. In the North division, they'll battle the likes of Juan Diego, Stansbury and Park City. Assuming they can make it through region play fairly unscathed, they'll have to play one of the traditionally potent teams from the Cedar City-St. George area.
"It's a weird situation, but I love our region," Wise said. "Our region is tough. There are very few down weeks. And what I really like is the fact that when we go into the playoffs, we're going against another region that's equally as good. It's going to be kind of a bloody-knuckle battle for the championship. Even though there are fewer teams, I don't think the competition level has dropped an ounce. In fact, I think it's cranked up quite a bit."
The Bears, who play three of their first four games on the road, open the season on Friday at North Sanpete.