CONCORD -- In his 10 years as Concord High's football coach, Brian Hamilton has never experienced this much roster turnover.
It's challenging, sure, but also refreshing and energizing, he says. There are no preseason rankings to worry about, no star players feeling pressure to live up to expectations or carry the team.
"I love us," Hamilton said. "I think it's a group of guys that recognize how hard they have to work."
The Minutemen graduated 20 starters from their 2012 roster of 27 players. The entire defense will be replaced with new faces and the only offensive starters back are quarterback Mitchell Daniels and offensive lineman Robert Liu. Both are juniors.
But don't expect Concord to suddenly drop off the map. As long as the Minutemen can progress steadily in a fairly challenging slate of nonleague games, Hamilton expects good things come Diablo Valley Athletic League play.
"If we can grow up in the preseason, we can be dangerous in this league and NCS," Hamilton said.
Among the fresh faces on offense are running backs Mark Rubio and Malik Blackburn. They'll attempt to fill the void left by Olito Thompson, who followed up his record-setting junior campaign with 1,847 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns last season.
Rubio saw some action on varsity last year while the dynamic Blackburn is coming off a strong summer.
Daniels, who took over as quarterback midway through last season, has a new group of receivers to work with. It includes Mason Knight, who has the potential to emerge as an electric playmaker, as well as senior Ronnie Algood, and newcomers Jed Gwynn and Brevin Schmidt.
While Daniels is experienced, Hamilton won't ask his quarterback to do too much.
"I just can't put too much pressure on myself," Daniels said. "I have to do what I do and go out there and perform."
The brand new defensive unit has been bolstered by the addition of Derek Clements to the coaching staff.
"His impact on the defense has been immediate," Hamilton said of Clements, previously the defensive coordinator at College Park.
And though no starters return, the Minutemen do have a solid and experienced lineman in senior Branden Barajas.
Plus, the secondary, with Jayrome Hill and Cesar Medina leading the way, could be as good as it's been in years. They helped the Minutemen win a 7-on-7 tournament over the summer for the first time since Hamilton has been at Concord.
But the Minutemen are going to need contributions from everyone in order to be successful.
"It's really 11 guys," Hamilton said. "It's been an interesting dynamic as far as preaching that and watching them respond to that and realize that if we don't play as 11 on defense, we're going to be in trouble."
8/30 at Liberty 7 p.m.
9/6 at Amador Valley 7 p.m.
9/20 at Bethel-Vallejo 7 p.m.
9/27 HERITAGE 7 p.m.
10/4 OAKLAND 7 p.m.
10/11 at Ygnacio Valley* 7 p.m.
10/18 NORTHGATE* 7 p.m.
10/25 vs. College Park*# 7 p.m.
11/1 at Clay. Valley Ch. 7 p.m.
11/8 MT. DIABLO 7 p.m.