Returning starters (defense): 7

First game: Sept. 3, vs. Dundalk, 1 p.m.

Fast fact: Towson has been close to qualifying for the Class 3A playoffs in each of the last two seasons, missing by a game in 2009 and two contests last year.

Key to success: Whether the Generals finally make it to the postseason depends on how they play late in the season. "They don't like the way things ended last year," Towson coach Scott Mathena says of season-ending losses to Catonsville and Overlea. "The seniors kind of packed it in."


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Breakdown: Mathena wants to start throwing the football more. So he changed the offense to a shotgun wing-T.

"Last year, we didn't throw the ball enough. This year, we will have a balanced attack."

Senior Bennett Okoro's passing abilities at quarterback excite Mathena. Okoro will replace senior MJ Preston, who moves to running back.

"He is almost like a Michael Vick-type," Mathena adds about Okoro. "He can throw on the run. We can put him in the shotgun, where he can take off running if he gets in trouble."

Towson's group of receivers — Preston, senior tight end Tim Jarosinski (6-3, 230), senior split end Daniel McGovern (5-11, 170), junior wing back Eric Ukandu (5-11, 165) and junior split end Sid McNairy (5-10, 155) — could be the strong suit of the offense.

"We have five guys that can legitimately catch the football," Mathena said.

Towson operated with the tandem of running backs Michael Obineme (1,280 yards, 16 TDs) and Damon Jones (800 yards) last year, but Preston, juniors DeSean Dowing (5-11, 165), James Frieson (5-10, 170), Aaron Slaughter (5-11, 160) and Ukandu all could share the load this fall.

Mathena is counting on the experienced offensive line of seniors Lorenzo Moore (5-10, 255), Eric Dickson (6-1, 225), Freddy Taylor (5-10, 230), Matt Stairs (5-10, 210), Paul Enderson (6-3, 280) and junior Nate Nenortas (6-0, 180) to help Towson keep up its rushing supremacy.

The Generals are stockpiled with talent along the defensive line, including senior Azubuike Ukandu (6-3, 285), a three-year starter at tackle and the player to watch on the line. He recorded 15 sacks and forced three fumbles last year.

"If he has a good year, he should be in the running for all-state," Mathena said. "He is being recruited by Maryland, Boston College and Villanova."

Ukandu will be joined by senior Moore, Jarosinski and Nenortas (6-0, 180).

At linebacker, Preston and Stairs are the playmakers.

Okoro and McGovern, juniors cornerbacks Slaughter and McNairy and safety Eric Ukandu) are likely to see plenty of playing time in the secondary.