While many people think about Jaylon Smith when naming off players who have moved on from Friday night lights a year ago, many others also will be missed. The News-Sentinel Player of the Year Anthony Linnear has moved on to college, as well as North Side teammate C.J. Jackson. Snider lost a host of stars, including Weston Painter, Tyrell Swain, Je'Norie Swain and Brandon Phelps. Isaac Griffith has moved on from Homestead, while Colin Brockhouse will miss this season at Northrop after Tommy John surgery. While several returning players will help fill the void left by those stars, there are also plenty of stars in the making. Here are eight to keep an eye on as the 2013 season plays out.
Zack Archer: SENIOR, DE, BISHOP DWENGER
If the Saints are going to vault into SAC title contention this season like many believe, the defense needs to improve after surrendering 23.2 points per game last year, including giving up 35 or more points to six opponents. There are some prominent statistical performers returning for the Saints, but Archer is a potential difference maker along the line. He notched 40 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions a season ago and could be extremely dangerous off the edge in 2013.
Jaylin Bennett: SENIOR, RB, WOODLAN
While not a true sleeper, Bennett opened eyes last season by rushing for more than 1,000 yards in fewer than seven games, setting school records for yards and attempts. With the ACAC looking thin this season, the Warriors could ride Bennett into conference title contention, with the senior perhaps finishing close to 2,000 yards on the ground if he can stay healthy.
Chandler Boggs: SENIOR, QB, CARROLL
The first-year starter may have the easiest job in the area in terms of a quarterback role – get the ball in the hands of the Chargers' playmakers. That should not be hard, because Carroll has a lot of them, led by brothers Drue and Justin Tranquill with Zak Edgar at tight end.
Jibri Bramley: SENIOR, LB, SNIDER
The Panthers have plenty of production to replace on both sides of the ball. Count Bramley as one of those ready to take on the challenge at linebacker. The senior notched 20 tackles, three sacks and a fumble recovery a season ago for Snider and is poised to break out as one of the playmakers for the Panthers defensively to go along with Rahju Blackmon and Donavin O'Day.
Nathan Braster: SENIOR, DE, SOUTH SIDE
Ask most casual area high school football fans to name the players committed to Division I programs, and many would likely omit Braster. This 6-5, 255-pound monster is overshadowed on his own team by IU commit Donovan Clark, but make no mistake, he can play. A verbal commit to Western Michigan, Braster finished 2012 with 56 tackles and 12.5 sacks. Those numbers are sure to rise this season, even if teams attempt to double-team him.
Nick Morken: SENIOR, RB, BISHOP LUERS
The top five ground gainers in terms of yards for the Knights graduated, leaving a gaping hole in the offensive backfield. The player with the most returning experience is Morken, who rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns during last season's state championship run. Morken is going to be very hard to miss in the open field, but he is tough and can bowl people over and get the extra few yards that help move the chains. That will be important for a Bishop Luers team replacing so much talent.
WR Sanders: SENIOR, DL, NORTH SIDE
Russell Collins got a lot of the publicity a year ago along the Redskins' defensive front, but Sanders was a devastating presence at the point of attack in the trenches. He finished 2012 with a team-high 81 tackles, 10 sacks, five tackles for loss and five fumble recoveries. He will be a key cog in a North Side defensive line that will be looking to replace Collins, among others.
Airiest Vasquez: SENIOR, RB, NEW HAVEN
Wide receiver Jordan Hogue is the Bulldogs' biggest offensive threat, but he is going to need some help. That could be Vasquez, who should benefit from a vertical passing threat with some clear holes at running back. A 1,500-plus yard rushing season is not out of the realm of possibility for Vasquez, which would lead defenses to lay off Hogue a bit more, a dangerous proposition.