Henry Clay's pre-season football profile almost always spotlights the Blue Devils' speedy skill-position players and the team's potential as an offensive juggernaut.
While Coach Sam Simpson says Henry Clay should be able to light up the scoreboard again this fall, he sounds more excited about his defense.
"I feel really good about us on that side of the ball," he said. "We've got some guys who can make some noise there. We've got some experienced guys, and I think we're physically stronger and tougher than last year."
Anthony "Bam" Lindsey, a 6-foot-1, 260-pound junior, anchors the defensive line. "He's never looked better," Simpson said. "He's a load in there."
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Elijah Gibbs, a 6-4, 255-pound sophomore, is expected to man a tackle position. Darius Fields and Dedreck Johnson bring 4.6 speed to defensive end.
Charles McCarty, who led the city in tackles last year, returns at linebacker. Hagan Bradley and John Curtis Lawson will help him there.
Anthony Benton is a veteran cornerback, and Evander Harris will be the defense's signal-caller at safety.
On offense, Henry Clay must find some new playmakers after graduating Bo Brooks, Blake Green, Carwell Gardner and Jerry Williams. They generated 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns last year.
Simpson, who's in his 19th season with the Devils, is still optimistic: "There are some new names in there, but we're still doing the same things."
Vinny Miller, who was dazzling after taking over at quarterback in the second half of last season, will start his senior year at running back and receiver.
Miller, who has committed to Cincinnati, is a game-breaker with quickness and speed. Last year, he ran for 904 yards (averaging 8 yards a carry) and 18 TDs.
"He's as good as anybody," Simpson said.
Christian Todd will step in at QB after taking a few snaps as a backup last year. "He's a senior, he's been around the program, and he wants to be a leader," Simpson said. "He's improving every day."
Running back duties will be done by committee, with Miller, David George, D.J. Jackson, Cole McCarty and Dee Fishback sharing the carries. Lindsey will also be used as a power back.
Harris, a rangy, 6-4 senior who will stretch the field at wide receiver, accepts his role as leader and playmaker on offense and defense. "The coaches are putting a lot on my shoulders, but it's nothing I can't handle," he said. "They give us what we can do."
Logan Gross and Evan Lawrence will also play receiver. Benton might see action there, too.
Simpson expects Henry Clay to be better on the offensive line, with Danijel Tadic, John Garrett and J.C. Frankenberg returning. Joseph Herrera and Tim Hadlock will help up front, too.
Henry Clay went into last season rated high but was upset by Boone County in the season opener. The Devils got back on track but made a second-round exit from the playoffs.
McCarty said a lesson was learned "that we can never be overconfident. We have to realize everyone's dangerous and everyone can beat us."
Harris has been preaching the same message to his teammates.
"We can't be cocky," he said. "We have to go into every game like we're the underdog and fight like we've got something to prove. If we do that, I think we'll prove a lot."