Michael Gutierrez has had a busy seven months.
Gutierrez, 28, landed his first varsity head coaching job in February when he was hired to take over a Highland program that hasn't had a winning season since going 6-5 in 2008.
"Within days I was up there almost every day," said Gutierrez, who finished out the school year as a teacher at Foothill before joining Highland's staff this school year.
"(It gave) me a lot of time to get to know the players even before spring ball."
Gutierrez was the JV head coach at Foothill last season and was the varsity offensive coordinator at Mira Monte before that.
"We are familiar with our opponents. That's the advantage of doing JVs," Gutierrez said. "I've seen the juniors coming up and I watched the varsity games, so I'm familiar with them."
The challenge for Highland's players is the new offensive and defensive sets they're learning.
Gutierrez, who will call the offensive plays, has installed a spread zone-read offense that requires the quarterback to make pre-snap reads. Highland was a wing-T team last season.
"We've come a long way," senior quarterback Breaker Brannan said. "Getting used to the new plays has been difficult, but everybody has been settling in and getting the hang of it."
Gutierrez promises the Scots will pass much more frequently this year.
"It's exciting," said Chance Cooper, a junior wide receiver and outside linebacker. "I like it. We're passing a lot, and we're going to come out hitting on defense."
There's also a big change defensively, with the 3-4 used last year switching to a 4-2-5, Gutierrez said.
"We have a lot of 'tweeners, guys who are in the mix at strong safety but too small to play (linebacker)," Gutierrez said. "This allows us to put more pressure on people."
Thus far, seniors Dracy Wiley and David Garcia have looked good at running back, Gutierrez said. Michael Sanchez is another starting candidate there after playing wideout last season.
Adam Terrazas, an outside linebacker last season, is at safety and running back.
The top defender returning is Eric Saavedra, a senior who was an all-Southeast Yosemite League defensive end and has moved to inside linebacker.
Gutierrez said he plans a lot of rotation among his offensive and defensive linemen.
"That'll help them stay fresh," he said. "We're pretty young with our offensive line with a few seniors sprinkled in."
A winning season is the immediate goal.
"From past years, we haven't done very well with our record," Brannan said. "We're just going to go out to prove we're a team to be reckoned with, get some wins and show we're a good team."