Note: North Summit finished with a 4-6 overall record in 2010 and a 3-2 record in the 2A East region. It lost to South Sevier, 20-14, in the 2A first round.
COALVILLE— Devin Smith is just a few weeks away from his first game as a head football coach. Considering who his mentor was, he's as prepared as any rookie coach can be.
Smith was an assistant coach for eight years at North Summit under Jerre Holmes, one of the most successful small school head coaches in state history, having won five state championships — three at Rich and two at North Summit.
After 22 years as a head coach, the last 11 at North Summit, Holmes resigned in late June to become the superintendent of the North Summit School District.
Smith is ready for his new role.
"I'm just excited. We have a good group of seniors coming back and some good juniors to help them out," said Smith.
In the month or so since Smith took over, the transition has been smooth. He'll continue to serve as the offensive coordinator and doesn't anticipate making many changes in his first season.
That's great news for senior Keegan McQueen, who's been the starting quarterback at North Summit for a year and a half. Smith has been the coach he's worked closest with ever since.
"He's coached me since I was a freshman. I like coach Smith. It's not a big change, he runs the same stuff," said McQueen.
While the Braves' offense will remain relatively unchanged, the defense will have a new look.
Former Brighton High boys basketball coach Lyndon Johnson has taken over as defensive coordinator after resigning from Brighton in March. He resigned to move to Evanston, Wyo., with his family, but Evanston and Coalville are only 40 minutes apart.
"He's put in a lot of time. I think he'll be real good for us," said Smith.
Even though Johnson never coached football at Brighton, he was an all-state defensive back in 1992 at Rich High School, where he was coached by Holmes.
North Summit has always based its defense around its personnel, and Smith said that won't change under Johnson.
"We're not very big, and I don't think that's always the biggest ingredient, but we're athletic. We have the kids to compete," said Smith.
North Summit only returns four starters on each side of the ball, and only one offensive lineman. It's a bit of a concern heading into a revamped region that includes 2A contenders like Millard, Manti and South Summit.
"We have a lot of kids with JV experience that will be seniors. We also have some juniors that are bigger and will compete for jobs. I think we definitely have the pieces, and I think once we put pads on there's going to be good competition for spots," said Smith.
Nathan Rees is a returning starter and an all-state caliber running back, but as Smith said he's at the mercy of the guys in front of him.
"As your line goes you go. No matter how good our skill guys are they aren't going to do anything without our line being good. I know we have the guys, we just have to see who they are," he said.
The new era begins at North Summit on Aug. 19 with three straight home games.
North Summit Braves at a glance
Coach: Devin Smith, a graduate of North Summit, is in his first year as head coach.
(4 returning starters; Two-back offense)
The Braves were the fourth-lowest scoring team in 2A last year at 17.2 ppg. It wasn't good enough last year and it certainly won't be good enough this year of they hope to compete for the region title. Only four pieces of that subpar offense are back. McQueen returns at quarterback and is best utilized running the ball. Rees is back at running back after leading the team with 690 yards and six TDs last year. Tight end Joseph Seright and receiver Jaxon Vernon are quality targets when North Summit throws — which isn't that often. The big question mark is in the trenches, where left guard Dalton Wright is the only returning starter.
(4 returning starters)
Johnson was an intense head basketball coach at Brighton, and he figures to bring that same intensity to North Summit as defensive coordinator. He'll rely a lot on a trio of linebackers, Braden Brown, Isaac Atkinson and Dixon Richins, to help the Braves get back to their winning ways. DJ Evans will be a key contributor on the defensive line, as will Seright.
Coaches preseason 2A North straw poll: Fifth
Deseret News 2A North prediction: Fifth
Bottom line: North Summit is small but athletic, a recipe that first-year coach Smith believes can be successful. First, however, the Braves need to go out and prove it in a tough region where they could be severely outmanned in the trenches against teams like Manti, Millard and South Summit. It will be hard for North Summit to crack the top three in the 2A North region, but if an experienced line comes together a top four finish is a possibility.
Aug. 19 — BEAVER, 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 — DUCHESNE, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 — MILLARD, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 — at American Leadership, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 — MANTI, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 — at North Sevier, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 — at South Summit, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 — GUNNISON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 — at Emery, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 — Playoffs, TBD