We still have a few captains back, but we have some new leaders. Hopefully it comes out and works well for us. —Jordan coach Eric Kjar

Note: Jordan finished with a 12-1 overall record in 2013 was first in Region 3 with a 5-0 record. It beat Syracuse 58-2 in the 5A state championship game.

SANDY— The planets aligned in 2012, and Jordan's football team delivered one of the best seasons the state of Utah has ever witnessed en route to drubbing Syracuse in the 5A state championship game.

It was a perfect storm, but as is always the case — every storm eventually subsides. The Beetdiggers lost all five of their offensive linemen up front along with their entire receiving corps. Accordingly, the defending champions enter the season as the No. 4-ranked team in the Deseret News 5A poll.

However, with the top two offensive players returning (quarterback and running back), coupled with a ferocious defense, Jordan has every reason to believe it will return to the 5A semifinals for the fourth-consecutive season.

“It’s tough,” Jordan coach Eric Kjar said. “The main thing is to just work hard. I don’t know if you expect each team to be like another team. I think we’re going to be a little bit different, but you still expect them to work hard, and make sure they’re bringing it at practice.”

The Beetdiggers have already put their rings in the jewelry box. Last season is a distant memory, and this group is striving to create its own identity.

“It’s much different,” Kjar said. “We still have a few captains back, but we have some new leaders. Hopefully it comes out and works well for us.”

Back in the fold is reigning Deseret News Mr. Football Austin Kafentzis. The Wisconsin commit carries the honor and burden of being the most recognizable name in Utah high school football.

In only two years, Kafentzis has been named Deseret News first-team all-state as a freshman; Mr. Football as a sophomore; National Freshman and Sophomore of the Year by MaxPreps; and second-team All-America by USA Today in 2012.

“He’s worked a lot on his speed, so I think that part he’s got a lot better on,” Kjar said of Kafentzis. “He’s definitely a lot faster than he was last year. He’s working on his reads and understanding the game better, so I think he’ll improve there, too.”

It’s conceivable that in two years Kafentzis will have rewritten every significant passing and rushing record in state history. He’s currently 4,906 yards and 47 touchdowns behind the high passing marks of Mountain Crest’s Alex Kuresa, and only 3,803 yards behind Kuresa’s total offense record. On the ground, he’s 2,597 yards behind the record of Granger’s Fahu Tahi and 26 touchdowns behind the record of Grantsville’s Alan Mouritsen.

Meanwhile, star Clay Moss also returns at running back after scooting for 1,111 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2012. As the new additions on offense acclimate to the speed of varsity competition, Jordan will rely heavily on Moss' production.

“Really important,” Kjar said of Moss when asked about the early portion of the season. “It’s nice having him back, and just the experience and what he brings physically. It helps a ton.”

Jordan Beetdiggers at a glance

Coach: In four years, Eric Kjar has a 38-13 record with three semifinal appearances and a state title with Jordan. He’s a graduate from Kemmerer High in Wyoming and Wayne State (Mich.).

Offense

(4 returning starters; spread offense)

Replacing one of the best starting front fives in history is obviously the main point of emphasis going forward. Right now, several players are contending for opening night roles, but Kjar highlighted Alex Kabwere (left tackle), Spencer Hallings (right tackle) and Parker Williams (center).

“We’re still kind of up (in the air) at a few spots,” Kjar said. “They’re doing a really good job, and working really hard. They’ve gotten better the last couple days, and I’ve seen some improvement. I like what they’re doing.”

Tayler Johnson and Cooper Clark appear to be the go-to targets in the passing game, along with Z-receiver Connor Bolingbroke, who started several games at the position last season.

Other players fighting for minutes are Jeffrey Timothy, Nate Mower and Carson Lund.

Defense

(7 returning starters)

The defensive unit was severely underrated last season. The ‘Diggers are returning seven players, including freshman All-American Clark, who had 107 tackles and seven interceptions.

“He’s so much better physically — just speed and strength-wise,” Kjar said of Clark. “Obviously he understands the game really well, but that part he’s really improved. He’s improved a ton strength-wise. He’s been able to work out with us, whereas last year we basically took him coming in from his eighth-grade year. He’s really worked hard. I’m excited for him.”

Kafentzis will also see limited action in the secondary at free safety.

“I think he can do both,” Kajr said when asked if it’s unnerving to have his superstar play defense. “He’s built enough and has spent some time building his body to be able to take some of that. He did it last year in the playoffs. He didn’t play every down, but he played a good portion at free. We’re kind of expecting him to do some of the same this year.”

Coaches preseason Region 3 straw poll: Fourth

Deseret News Region 3 prediction: Third

Bottom line: The offense will need time to adjust to new personnel, and during that time period the defense will need to raise the ante. Luckily, the defense is one of the best in the state. Anytime a team features a playmaker such as Kafentzis it will have a chance to contend for a state title. The ‘Diggers have all the horses to repeat, but the road will be much tougher this season.

Jordan coaching history

2009-current — Eric Kjar (38-13)

2003-2008 — Alex Jacobson (35-32)

1989-2002 — Jim Birch (80-64)

1986-1988 — Al Watrin (22-11)

1980-1985 — Rick Bojak (46-23)

1978-1979 — Bob Andrus (4-13)

1973-1977 — Doug Berry (16-31)

1972 — Tom Keller (1-8)

1971 — Ray Odette (3-7)

1969-1970 — Randy Autentico (2-13-3)

1967-1968 — Dean Stringham (5-13)

1966 — Bob Sanchez (1-8)

1965 — Tom Louazt (3-6)

1962-1964 — Evert Jones (14-11-1)

1961 — Glen Jackson (9-1)

1954-1960 — Howard Linford (19-35)

1950-1953 — Dale Sorensen (21-13-3)

1935-1949 — Dunn Taylor (106-29-7)

1931-1934 — Eddie Kimball (31-5-2)

1928-1930 — E.G. Foxley (9-10-1)

1920-1927 — O.D. Ballard (22-27-6)

1919 — Spike Gardner (5-2)

1918 — Parker Pratt (0-0)

1914-1917 — "Blondy" Hamilton (10-12-1)

1913 — unknown (2-4)

1909-1912 — O.G. Dutton (7-12-1)

Deseret News Mr. Football recipients

2012 — Austin Kafentzis, QB

Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years

2012 — B.J. Cavender, OL

Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years

2012 — Clay Moss, RB

2012 — Zach Larsen, OL

2012 — Tyshon Mosley, OL

2012 — Tyler Swan, LB

2012 — Cooper Clark, DB

2011 — Austin Kafentzis, QB

2011 — B.J. Cavendar, OL

2011 — Hayden Babka, LB

2010 — McCoy Hill, QB

2010 — Taylor Loomis, WR

2009 — Alex Hart, QB

2009 — Braden Hammond, WR

2008 — Alex Hart, QB

2008 — Vyncent Jones, OL

2007 — Cody Raymond, RB

2007 — Vyncent Jones, OL

2006 — Sean Taylor, QB

2006 — Cody Ramond, WR

2005 — Cody Raymond, WR

2005 — Cody Larsen, DL

To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.

Email: tphibbs@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @TPhibbsDNews