* Colton Akers, Ava, junior and Chase Willis, Ava, senior – The pair is expected to lead the team in the offensive backfield. Akers also will play safety, and Willis is out again for the team after not playing last season.
* Gunnar Allison, Rogersville, sophomore – One of the area’s top linemen, Allison has a few more years to create havoc for opponents. Allison was a two-way starter at center and defensive end last season, his freshman year.
* Nick Baron, Catholic, senior – Will be a defensive leader at the safety position and also could be junior quarterback Jack Jones’ best option in the passing game. Baron averaged 23.5 yards per catch last season.
* Shawn Beeson and Matt Wentz, Monett, seniors – Two of the only experienced players back for coach Chad Depee’s team, which made a surprising run to the state semifinal last season.
* William Blankenship, Aurora, senior – The linebacker/running back made contributions last season on both sides of the ball. But with Everett Basham graduated, Blankenship will have to fill his void.
* Cody Canote, Hollister, senior – Although undersized, Canote was one of the leading tacklers in the Ozarks from his linebacker position a year ago.
* Ty Craig, Cassville, senior – Is a team leader in the passing game on both sides of the ball as a wide receiver and defensive back.
* Easton Flaugh, Reeds Spring, senior – He’s a big quarterback and linebacker for the Wolves at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds. He accounted for more than 1,600 yards of total offense last season, and has great instincts for the game, coach Brian Moler said – especially at linebacker.
* Cooper Gosch and Kaz Woodward, Reeds Spring, seniors – The pair joins Flaugh as leading linebackers for the Wolves. Woodward is a three-year starter, and Moler said Gosch has great instincts and passion for the game.
* Braxton Graham, Seneca, senior – Graham rushed for 1,278 yards to lead the Indians last season and also made 28 catches out of the backfield. He also is an impactful player at defensive back, making four interceptions last season.
* Tristan Haltom, Ava, junior – Has already played varsity for two seasons, so the 6-foot-3 290-pound center is now a leader for the Bears’ offense.
* Alex Hausman, Mount Vernon, senior – The quarterback is back after a scary hip injury last season. His experience will be crucial for such a young team.
* Bailey Jenkins, Rogersville, junior – One of the area’s top junior athletes, Jenkins is a starter at tailback and defensive back for coach Doug Smith’s team.
* Tyler Juracek, Aurora, senior – The 5-foot-11, 225-pound two-way lineman is a hard-working, physical player who will be a big part of Aurora’s offensive and defensive lines.
* Gabe Kirk, Cassville, junior – The starting quarterback as a sophomore, Kirk is back after rushing for about 500 yards and throwing for 800 for the Wildcats.
* Brad Marlar, Aurora, senior – Aurora coach Rick Scholten said the Houn’ Dawgs expect Marlar to be a leader on both sides of the ball this year at linebacker and fullback.
* Dallas McGuire, Buffalo, junior – With a year of experience under his belt, McGuire and the offense will need to be proficient to bounce back from a 1-9 season.
* Dalan Merriman, Seneca, senior – The tight end/linebacker should contribute on offense, but will be mostly needed on defense, where he had 103 tackles last season.
* Bobby Oetker, Mount Vernon, senior – Oetker plays on both sides of the line but the 6-foot, 230-pound senior is the only returning starter on the offensive line. He is moving from guard to center this season.
* Austin Potter, Buffalo, senior – The returning All-Central Ozark Conference wide receiver is expected to have a big season for coach Jeff Stone.
* Hayden Prater, Cassville, senior – Prater was the Big 8 Conference Defensive Player of the Year last season and should once again lead from his linebacker position. Prater also will get carries on offense as well, and is a returning all-state player.
* Payton Rawlins, Seneca, senior – Rawlins, the quarterback, has his main targets back in the passing game in Jacob Walker, Chance Smith and Dalan Merriman. Rawlins, who also plays safety, threw for 1,943 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. He’s also one of the area’s best punters.
* Charles Schmitt, Rogersville, senior – Schmitt, at 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, is a returning starter in the defensive backfield for the Wildcats.
* Chandler Shook, Hollister, junior – The junior safety/running back should be an impact player on both sides for the Tigers, who are looking for a bounce back from an 0-10 season.
* Cameron Skornia, Catholic, senior – Skornia has been Catholic’s go-to-guy for two seasons already as the team’s running back. He’ll also play defensive back after gaining 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground a season ago.
* Matt Snodgrass, Catholic, senior – Snodgrass had 75 tackles, including five for a loss last season. Coach Bobby Cornelison said Snodgrass plays with a lot of energy, and his motor is always running full speed.
* Dominic Swillum, Mount Vernon, senior – Swillum was the leading tackler for the Mountaineers last season, and coach Ozzie Riley said he has the speed to play at the next level.
* Cordell Tatum, Salem, senior – There’s not a lot of experience back for coach Brian McNamee, who replaces legendary Bill Schuchardt. That makes players like Tatum, who returns as a starter on the line, even more crucial for the young team.
* Dalton Thomas, Reeds Spring, senior – Taylor is a tenacious blocker and team leader, who goes 5-foot-11, 265 pounds on the offensive line. Moler said Taylor’s leadership and drive are a huge part of Reeds Spring’s success as a run-based offense.
— Matt Schoch/Jeff Kessinger