The Laurel High coaches are eager to turn things around in a positive way after the Spartans struggled to a 2-8 record last year.
It's a tall order and they have started by changing the mindset of their players and issuing challenges.
"The coaching staff does a really good job of reminding the players that, 'Hey, your effort and attitude last year gave you a 2-8 record," Laurel second-year coach Todd Sommerville said. "Let's make sure we improve it and do things the right way."
As refreshing as a new outlook would be, it will take more than just an attitude shift to put the Spartans on a path to a winning record.
Laurel faces a long list of obstacles to overcome.
The program returns only 10 players to the varsity after graduating 16 seniors. Four starters are back on each side of the ball.
The Spartans also have to do a much better job of scoring points and keeping opponents out of the end zone.
They were outscored last year by a 3-to-1 ratio.
Still, Sommerville is looking forward and not back.
"I think we have all the pieces to do some really good things," the coach said. "I think we have good depth at all the positions. I think we are better than 2-8 and can be in the mix for .500. We have the talent to win games, sneak up on people and break all expectations."
The offense starts with senior quarterback Jaruis McClam (5-11, 185 pounds), who made nice strides last year running the spread offense.
Sommerville is expecting more progress this fall
"He has a lot of intangibles that you look for in a quarterback," he said. "He is very coachable. He is very athletic. He can run. When he gets the ball out on time, he is accurate and has a strong arm."
McClam will miss big-play wide receiver Joel Roberson, who graduated.
The 2012 Laurel Leader Athlete of the Year led the Spartans in catches (34), yards (523) and touchdown receptions (5) last year.
"We lost two really good receivers, but I think we picked up a couple of good ones," Sommerville explained.
Senior Marcus Byrd (6-4, 170) and sophomore Malik Harvin (5-10, 150) will be the Spartans' main receiving threats.
The speedy Byrd has been especially impressive in the offseason.
"He is a kid with a ton of potential," he said. "He is a kid when he was on, he was on fire. When we went to a passing league at Coolidge High School, Marcus was doing a phenomenal job of making plays and catching the ball. He makes it look pretty easy."
Senior Lewis Turner (5-9, 145) and sophomore Brandon Boodie (5-8, 140) are in the tailback picture.
Harvin can do all the things asked of a fullback.
The offensive line will be built around seniors Gerald Williams (5-11, 230) and Joshua Hawkins (5-11, 220).
"I think we will have a better offense than a year ago," said Sommerville, whose team routed High Point, 49-0, and Oxon Hill, 49-13, to account for last year's wins. "We had the summer to get accustomed to our passing game."
The Spartans must restock the defense after heavy losses, including standout outside linebacker John Ketum (West Virginia Wesleyan College) and lineman Demont Cook (Robert Morris University).
Safety Byrd, lineman Hawkins, linebacker McClam, defensive back Turner (5-9, 145), sophomore tackle Kalu Uche (5-9, 230), junior safety Brenden Clinton (5-11, 155), junior nose guard Kenneth Parker (5-10, 195) and cornerback Harvin will form the core of the defense.
"We are young and experienced," Sommerville said of his 3-4 defense. "But we look more confident and fundamentally sound than we did a year ago."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun