Tequan Claitt, Marcus Floyd and C.J. Walker accounted for 63 percent of Bryan Station's pass receiving yards last season — production the Defenders will have to replace after those three graduated.
Also lost to graduation were all-city offensive linemen Brannon Sturgeon and Dermonte Bond, which Coach Frank Parks said will result in even more growing pains early this season than the departure of his three standout receivers.
The bright side? Most of Bryan Station's seniors have seen the field the past two years.
"Some of them even played a little bit as freshmen," Parks said.
Safety Devon Key and defensive lineman Mikel Horton, both all-city first teamers last year, are the stars of a defense that should be the Defenders' strength in 2015.
"The defense will be very strong," said Horton, who has committed to go to Wofford. "We only lost two people, so we're still intact. Everything's good."
Senior middle linebacker Shane Preston described what he brings to his position.
"I'm crazy, for one," Preston said. "I put everything I got out there on the field. When I'm in the zone, in my opinion nobody can stop me."
Mahari Sturgis, an athlete who will play a little at wide receiver in addition to his role at corner back, said everybody on the team considers him its shutdown corner. He prefers keeping guys from scoring to scoring himself.
"It makes you feel like you've got power depending on how you hit a person," Sturgis said with a laugh. " ... Offense you have to be more patient and defense you can just be aggressive because you're waiting for something to happen to you."
Like Horton, Key expects the defense to be solid because of the number of returnees. Key, whose offers include Miami (Ohio) and Toledo, said it'll be important for the seniors to show leadership and mold the younger guys.
"If they make a mistake just teach them and don't get down on them," Key said.
Getting over the hump
Bryan Station faced off and came up achingly short against a number of marquee opponents last year, including Central Hardin in a 21-20 loss in the second round of the playoffs.
Parks, in his fourth year at Bryan Station, said his team probably should have won some of those games but silly mistakes did in the Defenders.
He hopes his returning players took something away from those defeats: it's about the little things.
"When you play teams like (Highlands and St. X) you got to be disciplined," he said, "you got to do all the little things right. We didn't do those little things that would've gotten us over the hump against some of those programs."
It's been a "state of progress" getting players to buy in, Parks said, but he's witnessed positive changes during his tenure. He noted having to prod players to get into the weight room his first year; now they understand the importance of getting stronger.
"We've been on a steady incline as far as our program goes and we have the leadership I think this year to get us over that hump," he said.
Why will Bryan Station be successful?
"I feel like we're putting in the work that everybody else is not, senior Mikel Horton said. "We're a great team and get along together. We're just doing the things that we need to do."