Over the years, Brad Livingston has taken to carrying a black notebook with him. Inside it, Livingston likes to jot down notes about the two Central York teams he coaches -- football and boys' volleyball.
At YAIAA media day last month, the longtime Panthers coach sat with the notebook open and black pen in hand, scribbling away as he chatted with senior wide receiver Jalil Ford. Their discussion spanned a spectrum of topics, from the team's defensive scheme to its starting lineup to the general pulse of this senior-laden group.
Truth is, both coach and player have plenty to feel good about -- not the least of which is a team that brings back 17 starters and plenty of playmaking potential.
Said Ford: "I'm feeling good about this year."
Filling the void: Almost every high-profile player is back for Central, but if one group merits watching, it's the offensive line.
That group might have been the biggest culprit behind the Panthers' disappointing 4-6 record last fall. Central couldn't run the ball (1,159 total rushing yards), and its quarterbacks found few stress-free moments inside the pocket.
"You know how offensive lines are like cults?" Livingston said. "We didn't have that last year, and it showed at the end of the season."
Central York does return three starters along that line, including senior tackle Logan Neff. The question, it seems, is how the unit as a whole will thread together.
Varsity letters: Luckily, Central's skill positions appear solid.
Quarterback Brandon Baker returns for his third season as the starter and will try to improve on an inconsistent junior campaign. Ford -- who clocks about a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash -- should be one of the league's top receivers.
The defense returns nine starters, including a havoc-wreaking line keyed by seniors Kevin O'Grady (10 sacks in 2010), Neff (9 sacks) and Kwe Parker (7.5 sacks). The defense should have a more simplified look, following the departure of defensive coordinator Russ Stoner. (Livingston will assume his play-calling duties.)
"Nothing that we're running is too complicated," Ford said. "We're all just flying around."
New face in the crowd: The Panthers' running attack was nonexistent last season; its leading rusher, now-senior Saladin Dickson, scratched out 367 yards.
Dickson will figure into the ground game this year, but Livingston hinted that junior Marquis Fells could get the first shot at tailback. Fells ran for 327 yards last year while splitting time between running back and receiver.
Of course, the offensive line's play will largely determine how much success he -- or any other Central running back -- can muster.
Mark your calendar: The Panthers have been plagued by slow starts in recent years -- they've lost three straight opening-night contests, all to rival West York.
A win on the road against the Bulldogs this time around would do wonders, especially considering a road trip to powerhouse Cumberland Valley awaits in Week 2.
Wide receiver/defensive back
Who is one player on your team you would not want to face? Jonah Plymire. He is strong, fast, just a freak athlete and someone you don't want to line up across from.
What practice drill do you hate the most? The type of drills where everyone gets a shot at you. We do this drill where there are d-linemen, linebackers, corners and safeties. You might have a fullback in front of you, or you might not, and they will pitch you the ball and tell you to run, and so everyone is pretty much getting kill shots on you.
Which NFL player would you compare yourself with? Any of the little slot receivers like Wes Welker or DeSean Jackson.
What is your favorite pregame music? Whatever is playing in the locker room. If I was in charge of the stereo I would put in some Drake, Lil' Wayne or Rick Ross.
Do you have a nickname? How did you get it? Nope, I do not have one.
What is your favorite move on the field? It depends if he is jamming me or not, but usually it is a fake one way, go the other way. I am extremely fast, so that is the best move for me.
What is the best thing about playing football? I have been playing since I was 4 years old. I had a bond with it and just kept playing. It was something I always did and loved. Friday nights are the best.