Inside the Trojans
Last season: 3-9
Returning starters: 15 (7 offense, 8 defense)
Returning offensive leader
Matt Holl, Sr., RB. 79 carries, 305 yards, 3 TDs; 14 receptions, 131 yards.
Returning defensive leader
Josh Salazar, Sr., LB. 47 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recover, 1 interception
Ian Hardy, Sr., RB/DB; Matt Holl, Sr., RB/DB. After opponents double-teamed LaKice Brooks last season, the Trojans opted to prime two runners for the duty this season. Enter Hardy and Holl, both of whom are a force from their first step.
He's got next
Hunter Rycerz, So., QB. It's not easy to replace a four-year quarterback, but Rycerz is up to the challenge. He might stumble early, but he's quick to get up and try again. "He can run, he can throw, he can do the things we need him to do," coach Trent Grider said. "He's a very coachable kid."
The Times' breakdown
The Trojans are in new-quarterback mode, which means that all of the play calling is going through a youngster in sophomore Rycerz. With no backup to Gunner Grider last year, Highland is happy to stack up a few behind Rycerz to keep the high pressure off. With a solid offensive line, Rycerz will have some time to learn and he has several backfield options in case of emergency. A second year under coach Grider has helped the Trojans accept offensive and defensive changes. "We put in a new offense last year with the Wing T and we understand it so much better now," Grider said. "Last year they were just hoping to call the right play, this year they all know the right play before it's called." Highland graduated seven seniors, but has a plethora this year with 25, all of whom are ready to lead a charge to a direction of winning. The Trojans last above-.500 season was 2001 and the Class of 2014 hopes to change that.
-- Hillary Smith