Note: Grand County finished with a 5-6 overall record in 2010 and a 2-3 record in the 2A East Division. It lost to Millard in the 2A quarterfinals.
MOAB — The 2011 Grand County Red Devils are going to be a very young team.
After advancing to the 2A quarterfinals a year ago, the Moab-based team lost 20 seniors to graduation and returns just two starters, both of whom are seniors.
The roster has 11 seniors total but just five who have varsity game experience, and there are no experienced players returning for the small junior class.
"We're going to be pretty young and inexperienced to start the year," said head coach Dennis Wells, adding that Grand County will depend greatly on its sophomores and freshmen.
"This is one of the hardest working teams I've coached. They are young, but they've been in the weight room all summer working to get bigger and better."
To show the youth of the team, Wells noted that there are two players vying for the starting quarterback position — both of them are sophomores.
They are Jacob Francis, at 5-foot-5 and 130-pounds, and Koi Cook, who is 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. Cook is returning to the field after recovering from ACL surgery last winter.
Leading the team on both sides of the ball are Kevin Ballard and Spencer Smith, the team's two seniors.
Ballard is a nose guard-turned-middle linebacker and Smith a tight end and defensive end.
"(Kevin) is one of our top players; he's got good speed for his size," Wells said of the 6-foot-1, 225-pound player. "He's been dominating at nose guard for three years, but we're moving him to middle linebacker this year to give him a chance to play after high school."
Like Ballard, Smith is a quiet team leader.
"We don't have too many vocal kids. The seniors both lead by example, they've both hit the weight room really hard this summer," Wells said.
The Red Devils also have two new running backs coming onto the scene. Eric Black, a senior, and Xavier Mason, a freshman, both add speed to an offense that runs the ball "60 to 70 percent of the time."?
To counteract the youth on the defensive side of the ball, Wells said the team is focusing on using its athleticism.
"We want to be tenacious on defense," he said. "We want to fly around the field, be all over the ball, and use aggression to make up for our inexperience."
In spite of the small number of players who return to the Grand County roster as starters a year ago, Wells believes his team will make great strides throughout the upcoming season.
"We have a lot of proving to do," he said. "Our strength is in our sophomores and freshmen. As they get game experience, we will improve, and I hope to surprise people as the year goes on."
Grand County Red Devils at a glance
Coach: Dennis Wells is entering his 10th season at Grand County, putting together a 43-52 record in the last nine years. Wells is a graduate of Grand County High.
(2 returning starters; shotgun offense)
The Red Devils will primarily run the ball behind the direction of one of two sophomore quarterbacks — Jacob Francis or Koi Cook. Eric Black and Xavier Mason will take the field as running backs behind a very young line as Grand County works to recover from losing nine starters on each side of the ball.
(2 returning starters)
Seniors Kevin Ballard and Spencer Smith are the team's most experienced guys, and they will especially need to use their leadership for a young defense. The goal is to use what athleticism they have to make up for the know-how they lack to start the year.
Coaches preseason 2A South straw poll: ThirdComment on this story
Deseret News 2A South prediction: Fourth
Bottom Line: It will take time for the Red Devils to get back to where they were even a year ago. The strength of the team is in the younger classes, so as the sophomores and freshmen gain experience, the team will improve.
Aug. 19 — SAN JUAN, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — MONTICELLO, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — at Kanab, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at South Sevier, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — PAROWAN, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — at Beaver, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — RICHFIELD, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — ENTERPRISE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — at San Juan, 7:00 p.m.