Tray Dean returns to Ridge Spring-Monetta's defensive line after recording 25 tackles for loss, 15 sacks and seven forced fumbles last year.

It's been a quick summer for Ridge Spring-Monetta and new football coach Brian Smith.

Smith and the Trojans hit the ground running upon his hiring near the end of June, giving them just enough time to figure out all of the names and numbers and implement some schemes to get ready to play.

Smith, a former head coach at Strom Thurmond who took the RS-M job after Kenny Lipsey took an assistant position at Swansea, inherits a group that went 5-2 in Region 3-A and advanced to the second round of the playoffs a year ago.

Offensively the focal point will still be Collier Sullivan, who rushed for 1,336 yards and 17 touchdowns a year ago, as the Trojans look to move the football from a shotgun-based spread offense.

"He's a great back we have coming back, and we're gonna make sure he gets the ball throughout the season," Smith said. "But we are gonna spread it out and throw it a little bit. We feel like we've got a young sophomore quarterback that played a lot last year in Rem Leaphart, and he led them to a lot of victories. So we're gonna try to continue that, move around a little bit, mix the run and pass and try to keep defenses on their toes."

There's a significant overhaul at linebacker, though. Hayden and Reagan Cherry left following their junior seasons and Brendon Frazier graduated – the trio combined for more than 400 tackles and 40 tackles for loss a year ago. The Trojans were led on the defensive front last year by pass rushing machine Trey Dean, who had 98 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 15 sacks, seven forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries.

One spot where RS-M will have to grow up, and quickly, is on the offensive and defensive lines. Tackles Cameron Davis and Jakobe Erving will anchor the offensive line from the tackle positions, and Smith will be looking for some youngsters to fill the other spots. 

"We have to develop some offensive and defensive linemen fast," he said. "We've got some big linemen who are freshmen. I'm excited about it. I think the future is very bright with them in that regard, but we've got to develop them quickly."

RS-M opens the season against traditional rivals Batesburg-Leesville and Saluda, both Class AA programs, before finishing the brief non-region schedule at Whitmire. Then it's on to the seven-game Region 3-A grind from there, where the Trojans will again try to build momentum for another playoff run.

"We've got to survive those (first) two, do our best to win those two ballgames. At that point, we play eight straight 1A schools – schools our size," said Smith. "We feel good about those games. ... We're not backing down from anybody, but at the same time playing some people early that have a few more students, a few more players than you makes that game a lot harder for us."

Kyle Dawson covers sports for the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter @ItsKyleDawson.