Simon Tobin said this year's Cal State Bakersfield men's soccer team had the potential to be the best squad in the school's history.
Richie Grant could be the beneficiary of that.
Tobin, CSUB's coach since 1987, left last December to become coach at San Jose State.
Grant was hired in the spring. He went 135-116-22 in 15 seasons at the University of Memphis and was that program's all-time winningest coach.
CSUB went 9-9-2 overall and 6-3-1 in its inaugural Western Athletic Conference season.
"The anxiety was dealt with in the spring," Grant said of the players' shock over Tobin's departure. "This group has knitted together in camp, and this is now a new team with a new staff. There's a life lesson in there. What can you do but get on with it?"
Grant said he hasn't spent a lot of time analyzing Tobin's system and coaching style. He's too busy putting his coaching philosophies in place.
Defense has been an emphasis and will likely be the team strength early in the season.
"As a team, we defend. We're difficult to score on," Grant said. "We press in a different way. Not high pressure. We pick and choose our moments."
Offensively, CSUB will rely on a host of players for goals rather than one explosive player, such as former Roadrunner Gyasi Zardes, now with the L.A. Galaxy.
"We don't have a striker we can depend on like Gyasi," Grant said. "It's going to have to be shared. We feel we have the personnel."
The first test comes Friday when the Roadrunners open their season at San Diego State. The home opener is Sept. 13 vs. UC Davis at 7 p.m. CSUB's Western Athletic Conference season opens Oct. 4 at home vs. Tobin's San Jose State team.
Grant said he will lean on his five senior returnees to lead the way.
"They got to the (WAC Tournament) semifinals. They've navigated through the WAC," he said. "The guys know where they want to be in November. We need to work on the ways to get us there at the end of the season."
Seniors Alex Flores and James Garces will man the back line, Grant said.
"They're very experienced and approached camp with a good attitude," he said. "They're highly competitive."
Senior Joe Masumiya and junior Christian Duarte are the midfielder anchors.
Senior David Velasquez could be the top forward. "His most important contribution is his guidance and experience as a senior," Grant said.
Senior Lucas Dall'Orso, who missed most of last season with an injury, is fully healthy.
"Lucas can change a game -- a two-way player with tremendous energy."
The goalkeepers are junior Anthony Perez and sophomore Nicolas Clever.
Duarte and Masumiya were picked by WAC coaches to the preseason all-conference team.
The coaches also picked CSUB to finish third in the 10-team WAC, behind Seattle and UNLV.