The arrival of George Yates II as Columbus South's coach last season ushered in a new attitude and new expectations.
Those changes also produced the Bulldogs' first winning season since 2006 and only the second since 1994.
South finished 6-4 overall and 3-4 in the City League-South Division.
"The way things had been going since 2006, it's pretty easy to come into a situation and point it in the right direction and try to get some improvement," said Yates, whose team opens Aug. 30 against visiting Columbus East. "But in year two, 6-4 is not an acceptable result -- at least not for us. We have pretty lofty goals."
With eight returning starters on both offense and defense, Yates, a longtime City League assistant coach, believes this year's group is ready to take the next step.
While the Bulldogs will have a new quarterback to replace 2019 graduate Haisaun Martin, a first-team all-league and all-district honoree, the unit isn't lacking experience.
Junior Ronmel Robinson, who received second-team all-league honors last season at tight end and linebacker, is competing with senior Semaj Jones at quarterback. One of them will lead the double-tight-end offense, which averaged 26.8 points per game last season.
Also back are senior running back Daivion Greene-Tucker (first-team all-league, special mention all-district) and senior fullback/linebacker Leon Miller Jr. (second-team all-league).
Two returning starters up front -- sophomores Daizhon Cox and Tony Souvanhly -- were honorable mention all-league along with returning senior wing back Coriawn Wade.
"I think the kids have certainly grown, but there is a lot of weight on our shoulders now," Yates said. "We don't just want to be 6-4. We don't just want to get by. We want to compete."
South won its non-league games last season, over Columbus East (24-8), Berne Union (28-6) and Linden-McKinley (40-6), to start 3-0. But it lost its final three contests against Walnut Ridge (47-8), Independence (42-0) and rival Marion-Franklin (8-6).
Yates expects his own abilities to grow as well.
"I think my ability to manage the complexities of the program has gotten better," he said. "I told several people I don't think I was a very good coach in Week 1 in terms of my play calling, and I didn't like the mood I set in practice during the Independence and Walnut Ridge weeks."
Yates brought the double-tight-end formation to South from Columbus West, where as the offensive coordinator he coached the 2016 Division II district Offensive Player of the Year in Demetrius Brown, who led an offense that averaged more than 47 points as the Cowboys finished with a program-best 9-2 record and reached the playoffs for the first time.
"When you're looking at (the formation), it can seem a little complex, but there's really not a lot to it," Yates said. "We want something we can run with confidence."
Half of the returning starters play up front in Cox, Souvanhly and seniors Kevin Richardson and Quincy Henderson.
Junior wing back Devin French and tight ends Jerome Dillard, a junior, and R'Son Baker-Hollingsworth, a sophomore, also are projected starters.
The Bulldogs' 3-5-3 defense hopes to build on last year's success in holding opponents to 16.4 points per game and shutouts against Briggs (48-0), Africentric (42-0) and West (68-0).
"I want to say that our defense didn't allow points in five games," Yates said. "Linden and Berne Union's offense didn't score on us."
The eight returning starters are spread throughout the unit, with Cox and Richardson along the line, Robinson, Miller and Jones at linebacker and junior Dawson Clark-Croone, Greene-Tucker and Wade in the secondary.
Linebacker Daquine Petty, a 2019 graduate, was first-team all-league and all-district last season.
Robinson will handle kickoffs and punts, and Green-Tucker will kick field goals and extra points.
Wade and French will serve as the returners.
Quarterbacks: Ronmel Robinson (jr., 6-0, 210), Semaj Jones (sr., 6-2, 179)
Running backs: *Daivion Greene-Tucker (sr., 5-9, 174), Dawson Clark-Croone (jr., 6-0, 180)
Fullbacks: *Leon Miller Jr. (sr., 5-9, 200), Stephon Henry (jr., 5-10, 170)
Wing backs: *Devin French (jr., 5-7, 149), Coriawn Wade (sr., 5-9, 152)
Tight ends: *Jerome Dillard (jr., 5-10, 177), *R'Son Baker-Hollingsworth (so., 5-10, 189), Jones, Xavier Scott (so., 5-9, 160)
Linemen: *Kameron Franklin (so., 6-0, 254), *Quincy Henderson (sr., 6-0, 245), *Shermar Lindsey (jr., 6-4, 246), *Kevin Richardson (sr., 5-9, 280), *Tony Souvanhly (so., 5-10, 254), Darnell Berry (so., 5-8, 193), Daizhon Cox (so., 6-10, 210), Sirr Hollingsworth (so., 6-6, 313), Jamal Watson (jr., 6-5, 272)
Linemen: *Lindsey, *Richardson, *Henderson, Berry, Cox, Watson
Linebackers: *Robinson, *Jones, *Henry, Miller, Keivontah Petty (jr., 5-9, 155), Daveon Sykes (jr., 6-0, 175)
Secondary: *Clark-Croone, *Green-Tucker, *Charles Johnson (sr., 5-8, 147), *Wade, Du'Relle Frazier (5-7, 146), Anthony Higginbotham (so., 5-10, 137), Delquan Rodgers (jr., 5-8, 147)
Kickers: *Green-Tucker, *Robinson
Returners: *French, *Wade
Long snapper: *Lindsey
(*Denotes projected starter)