Rocky Martin played linebacker at Colorado State. He was a linebackers coach when he came to Putnam City West as an assistant a few years ago.
And that position looks to be the strength of the Patriot defense as Martin enters his second year as head coach.
A trio of senior linebackers are among the six returning starters on the PC West defense. That includes 6-foot, 210-pound Caleb Sturgeon, who had 85 tackles last season. Doug Jones and Loyd Spaugy return as well.
PIEDMONT'S QUARTERBACKS ARE BACK
Piedmont senior Brett Adams may feel more at home back at his original position this year.
Adams made the switch last season from defense to quarterback after both of the Wildcats' quarterbacks suffered injuries.
Neither saw significant playing time.
Lucas Richert tore his ACL during a summer league basketball game, and then Josh Hampton broke his collarbone in a scrimmage. Richert will be the starting quarterback, and Hampton will serve as a wide receiver and backup.
“We're excited about having two quality guys back to run our offense,” Piedmont coach Craig Church said.
The Wildcats went 4-6 last season but return nine starters on defense, including Adams at outside linebacker.
WESTERN HEIGHTS LOOKS TO UPPERCLASSMEN
After an 0-10 season, the only way to go for Western Heights coach Edward Polly and his Jets is up.
Polly will look toward two juniors and two seniors to be the difference-makers of his young team.
The Jets will be led by junior quarterback James Lewis, junior defensive tackle Cody Young, senior linebacker and offensive lineman Ernesto Hernandez and senior wide receiver and defensive back Jahwan Woods.
Of Lewis, Polly said, “nobody works harder.” Polly called Hernandez a leader and a “do everything” kind of player. He said Woods is a utility athlete and Young is “D-I material if he plays. He can be a beast if he wants to be.”
Polly also said the Jets will run a 4-2-5 defense, while the offense will be “a little more diverse scheme-wise,” but still run the spread under Lewis.
“We look a lot different than last year,” Polly said. “Hopefully that translates to more victories.”
HEART OF HENNESSEY DEFENSE RETURNS
Hennessey's 4-3 defense brings back an experienced back seven, but coach Rick Luetjen will be breaking in a few new defensive linemen.
Defensive end Javy Renteria is back after starting as a sophomore, and three talented linebackers return in Abe Ortega, Dylan Hatchel and Carlos Torres.
Hatchel is also the starting quarterback.
MINCO MOVING TOP WR TO QB
Minco's Jacob Overton earned Little All-City honors as a wide receiver last season after catching 79 passes for 1,165 yards.
This season, the senior will make the move to quarterback to run the Bulldogs' spread attack as they look to make a fourth consecutive appearance in the Class A playoffs.
“He's been doing really well at quarterback,” said coach Clint Warren. “He's a special athlete that we can move around to a bunch of different spots. Even though he's never played quarterback in his life, he throws the ball well. We're definitely going to look at him as a running threat, too.”
Overton used the voluntary workouts this summer as an opportunity to acclimate himself to his new position. Finding players to fill the void left by Overton at receiver is a concern, but Warren is confident they'll be able to do so.
“We have some other kids that have been in the system and can step up with us moving him to quarterback,” Warren said. “We like to throw it around a little bit and our guys know that, so they're ready to step in.”
Overton will have a big target in 6-foot-5, 190-pound receiver Joe Mitchell.
SOUTHWEST COVENANT RBS BACK
Southwest Covenant features a potent rushing attack with senior Michael Cord returning after a 1,000-yard season. Junior AJ Wheeler also returns after rushing for 457 yards.