Team preview: American

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

He isn't saying he's suddenly going to morph into a kindergarten teacher this fall, but American coach Jeff Jones is prepared to handle his young squad with some kid gloves.

With a projected starting five that lacks a senior and a bench that will be formed mostly by a deep recruiting class, the Eagles will be learning on the job in pursuit of their fifth straight winning season (a stretch of success that hasn't been achieved at AU since 1970-71 through 1974-75).

After the Eagles lost some non-conference games that came back to haunt them in 2003-04, Jones said last season he and his staff pulled out all the stops to get an experienced team off to a solid start. The result was early season wins on the road against Vermont, Towson and Ohio University. The early energy expenditure, however, might have cost his team during league play. In an effort to make sure his team is at its strongest come March -- and to avoid overwhelming his young club -- Jones admitted that he is going to be a little softer in his approach in 2005-06.