This is an archived article that was published on in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When the football season starts, Hillcrest football will be thankful for hulking 6-foot-6 tackle Ryan Blankenship. The Huskies will be thankful for the quietly efficient linebacker Jake Fife, and fleet-footed receiver Bailey Ammons.

They will be thankful, because those are the only returning seniors with much varsity experience. Hillcrest is nearly starting from scratch.

"It's kind of hard to adjust for all the new people and younger kids," Ammons said. "But they have a lot of good chemistry and energy that helps make up for it. There's a lot of potential."

There's no doubt that coach Casey Miller in his second year has started gaining the unity Hillcrest has lacked through the past few dismal seasons. But the Huskies could be in some more pain after graduating most of their starters and only bringing back five total seniors.

The offensive line, the backfield, the defensive line and the secondary are all areas where new players are getting thrown into the fire. The team will continue to run a pro-style offense and a 4-3 defense, but its taking some time for everyone to learn.

A recent practice that was supposed to end at 6:20 p.m. stretched nearly an hour long as Miller and his staff perfected the team's formations, critqued reads and runs, and generally gave the Huskies as much football education as they can handle.

The ray of hope for Hillcrest is that several other teams - including Olympus and Westlake - are also rebuilding and retooling. Of course, those teams went to the playoffs last year, while the Huskies stumbled to 3-7.

But Blankenship was one of several Huskies who wasn't shy about showing optimism.

"I love being here: Hillcrest is a great school," the bearded mammoth said. "We're behind all these kids 100 percent. We're going to do anything we can to get them to step up."

LAST SEASON: 3-7, missed playoffs.KEY RETURNER: Ryan Blankenship, senior, tackle. The biggest man on the field is also the most upbeat, and running backs should be eager to get behind the paths he carves in opposing defenses.PLAYER TO WATCH: Tanner Thompson, soph., quarterback. Miller planned for Thompson to take over this year, so he has plenty of first-team reps. His poise will be tested by the Region 7 powers, but he has the look of a leader.BIGGEST HOLE: The secondary likely has the most question marks at the moment, but almost every position is young.NEED TO KNOW: The Huskies' realistic goal, they acknowledge, is to win some region games and break .500. The best-case scenario is getting a No. 4 seed in the playoffs and just edging in, but even that is daunting.SEASON OPENER: Visits Riverton. Aug. 17 @ 7 p.m.

Previous postsJuly 25: Introduction/Riverton

July 26: Hunter/Park City

July 27: Kearns/Copper Hills

July 28: Davis/Juan DiegoJuly 30: Olympus/Judge Memorial

July 31: Alta/Grantsville

Aug. 1: Westlake/West Jordan

Aug. 2: Layton

Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon