Among the activities Liberty Union participated in during the offseason was a sleepover at the school in which it focused on team bonding and enhancing chemistry.

The Lions also had team dog tags made to award players who achieved certain success in the weight room.

After going 2-8 last season, second-year coach Daniel Shirey is putting an emphasis on building for the present and future.

"Ultimately you look for ways to build your program and create that excitement, create that buzz," Shirey said. "We're trying to get the younger players to buy in sooner. We sat down as a staff and came up with some things for this offseason that we needed to work on and we identified (having more physical) strength as something we need to get better at, along with speed, flexibility and agility."

The Lions went 7-4 and made the Division V playoffs in 2016 but struggled to a 3-7 finish the year before Shirey took over as they adjusted to moving to the MSL-Ohio Division.

Last season, Liberty Union lost its first five games before beating Bexley 26-0 and ended up 1-4 in the league.

Harvest Prep, a Division VII playoff qualifier last season, and Buckeye Valley, which went 5-5, have been added to what is now a seven-team league.

The Lions aren't playing Fairfield Union, which they beat 15-7 to close last season, and London has left for the Central Buckeye Conference after going 11-2.

The Lions have "pieces, but have just got to put it all together," said Shirey, whose team opens Aug. 30 against visiting Heath.

Liberty Union lost four starters on the offensive line and two at wide receiver and will have a new quarterback, and many key players also were lost to graduation on defense.

There are just six seniors in the program, putting players such as senior Kobe Barnett and junior Casey Fleahman in the spotlight.

"We're looking for new leaders," Barnett said. "It's been hard because we've got a super-young team. We're trying to take on that role. Last year there was a lot of negativity and injuries that brought a lot of hopes down. We've improved our weightlifting numbers so (our strength has) gone up."

OFFENSE

Barnett rushed for 723 yards and seven touchdowns on 156 carries to lead the offense last season. Fleahman and sophomore Braden Schreyer also should see key carries in the backfield.

"(Barnett) will get the brunt of the carries," Shirey said. "There's power, there's speed, great vision. He just really knows what to do with the football. (Fleahman) is our battering ram and will get a lot of carries out of the spread."

Senior William Brown, a transfer from Teays Valley who didn't previously play quarterback, is among those who could see time at that position along with sophomores Jack Brown and Barrett Young and freshman Cayden Carroll.

One of them will replace Caleb Shook, a 2019 graduate who passed for 854 yards and rushed for seven scores last fall.

Senior Lonnie Lawhorn and sophomore Jacob Denny should be the top receivers.

Returning on the offensive line are juniors Cameron Davis and Blake Shreyer. Senior Jacob Walter, who is the team's bulkiest lineman at 6-foot and 280 pounds, and junior Braden Shook also should be up front.

"We played a lot of seniors last year, but a lot of them got hurt so we played relatively young," Shirey said. "You could tell the guys started to figure out which way we're going."

DEFENSE

Shirey calls Lawhorn "truly a lockdown" cornerback with "great speed (and) great ball skills" who will lead the defense.

He is joined in the secondary by Denny at safety and juniors Tye Boggs and John Putnam at the other cornerback spot.

Barnett had 48 tackles and three tackles for loss last season and will lead the linebacking corps along with Fleahman in the middle and Braden Shreyer on the outside.

Junior Dylan Anthony is a returnee on the line, which also should feature junior Drew Walker, Walter and Davis.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Barnett was the backup punter last season but is expected to take over that role full time, with Anthony likely to be the kicker.

Lawhorn returned kickoffs and punts last season and figures to do so again.

"We've got a bunch of young guys in that freshman and sophomore class that are very good, so what we want to do (on special teams) is rest a lot of the starters that are going both ways," Shirey said. "We might look at some of those younger guys. Even though we preach special teams here, returning a punt to the house isn't what we're look. Taking what they give us is what we want, and good field position."

THE LINEUP

Offense

Quarterbacks: Jack Brown (so., 6-2, 170), William Brown (sr., 5-10, 170), Cayden Carroll (fr., 5-10, 150), Barrett Young (so., 6-0, 175)

Running backs: *Kobe Barnett (sr., 5-11, 170), *Casey Fleahman (jr., 5-10, 175), Austin Ety (so., 5-7, 145), Braden Shreyer (so., 5-11, 165)

Receivers: *Tye Boggs (jr., 5-9, 140), *Jacob Denny (so., 6-2, 165), *Lonnie Lawhorn (sr., 6-2, 160), John Putnam (jr., 6-0, 165)

Linemen: *Dylan Anthony (jr., 6-1, 230), *Cameron Davis (jr., 5-9, 182), *Braden Shook (jr., 6-1, 200), *Blake Shreyer (jr., 5-9, 190), *Jacob Walter (sr., 6-0, 280)

Defense

Linemen: *Anthony, *Drew Walker (jr., 6-1, 230), Davis, Blake Shreyer, Walter

Linebackers: *Barnett, *Fleahman, *Braden Shreyer

Secondary: *Lawhorn, *Denny, Boggs, Putnam

Special teams

Kicker: *Anthony

Punter: *Barnett

Returner: *Lawhorn

Long snapper: To be determined

(*Denotes projected starter)

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek