Northland High School senior Quentin Jones should make headlines in November when he is expected to become the second defensive lineman in as many seasons to sign with a Division I college football team.

Northland High School senior Quentin Jones should make headlines in November when he is expected to become the second defensive lineman in as many seasons to sign with a Division I college football team.

Despite his presence, that area of the field might not be the Vikings' biggest strength this year.

As it attempts to bounce back from a season of ups and downs, Northland knows it also must harness the athleticism that it appears to have at linebacker and in the defensive backfield if it's to take a step forward.

"Our strength on defense is that we have a lot of linebacker-safety types who can do multiple things, which is why we're fooling around some with a 3-4," coach Kevin Tooson said. "But we can go either (with a 3-4 or 4-3). We're very athletic and very fast. It's been fun to watch these guys. They've got a lot of aggression, and that's one thing you cannot coach."

Jones, who is 6-foot, 308 pounds, has verbally committed to play for UNLV. Javon Cornley, who is a freshman at Indiana, led a 2009 senior class that also included defensive back Cody Green and running backs Travis Byrdsong, Norman Pitzer and Alfred Geiger.

Another likely Division I recruit from the defense is senior cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah (5-11, 185), who has received an offer from Bowling Green. Also in the secondary should be junior cornerback Jarrell Jones (5-9, 175), junior free safety Johnathan Saunders (6-0, 180) and senior strong safety Raynard Ballard (5-10, 180).

Seniors Isiah Fields (5-10, 190), Paul Chapman (5-10, 210) and Devin Hill (5-11, 225) will be at linebacker, with senior Daylen Motton (6-0, 275) and juniors Greg Williams (6-1, 185) and Kevin Groce (6-1, 185) expected to join Jones on the line. Juniors Divonte Oliver (5-8, 200), Martrice Mattox (5-8, 200), Roberto Pierre (6-3, 205) and LeQuan Williams (6-2, 190) also should contribute defensively.

Last season, the Vikings followed an 0-4 start by winning their next four but then were shut out by Brookhaven (38-0) and Beechcroft (29-0) to close the season. They also had three other games in which they were held to single digits in points.

The Vikings were 4-3 in the City-North to tie Whetstone and East for third behind Brookhaven (7-0) and Beechcroft (6-1).

Northland -- which is 25-35 in six seasons under Tooson, with its only winning season coming in 2007 when it finished 6-4 -- is hoping a simpler plan will provide more offensive success.

Northland has run a version of the spread offense in recent years, but junior quarterback Myles Taylor-Hicks (6-3, 190) inherits an offense that will feature more I-formation sets. Taylor-Hicks is a transfer from Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy.

"We'll do some spread, but it will just be with our quarterback under center," Tooson said. "We won't be running as much (shotgun). I got tired of having a good game ruined by a bad snap. When everyone is in the right place, it's fun to watch."

Ballard, Jones and senior Jamar Yates (5-9, 190) are the top running backs, with seniors A.J. Johnson (6-0, 175) and Julian Harris (6-2, 165) at wide receiver and Williams at tight end.

Seniors Anthony Peoples (LG, 6-0, 260) and James Radabaugh (RG, 6-2, 225) lead an offensive line that also will include juniors Jamari Paramoor-Morgan (LT, 6-5, 320) and Mike Carter (C, 5-9, 260) and sophomore Tyra' Harp (RT, 6-2, 250).

"The talent deficit is no longer there," Tooson said of his team's annual battle to make strides toward the top of the City-North. "It's been more psychological. The seniors this year have accepted the challenge of leadership and have organized workouts among themselves. They've been a pleasure to coach."

Northland has moved from Division II, Region 7 to Division I, Region 3, making it the only City-North program competing in Division I.

The non-league schedule again features Cleveland Heights (Aug. 28) and Marion-Franklin (Sept. 11), with Briggs (Sept. 4) replacing Independence.

Last year, Northland lost its three non-league games and then fell to Columbus East 12-9 in week four.

"We've got a lot more energy flowing through us this year," Radabaugh said. "Getting off to a good start is very crucial, but we've first got to learn how to play as a team. Then everything else will fall into place."