SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — The Sevier County Smoky Bears’ defense helped them get off to a 6-1 start to the season last year. The Smoky Bears gave up 20 or less points in seven of its contests.

“That can carry over year-to-year just on a mentality,” said Sevier County football head coach Todd Loveday. “Less thinking than there is on offense. I tell them if you know between left and right, you can play defense if you just run to the ball. We stress that every day even through the season. Even on a walk through Thursday, they have to get to the football. It’s a different world over there on the defensive side, but we got a lot of guys who want to do it.”

Sevier County will have to replace three linebackers on that side of the ball, but Loveday feels like the team still has a lot of depth.

“I think depth,” said Loveday. “Depth at the skill positions. Running backs, receivers and defensive backs. We tell them we’d like to play eight receivers in a game and two or three running backs if you allow us to. I think competition breeds what we want to get at the end anyway.”

“A lot of improvement,” said Sevier County senior defensive back/running back Malachi Pate. “We got a lot of depth on our team. As from last year, we didn’t have that much depth. Lost a lot of people at linebacker, but we’re trying to get our team back to normal.”

As for the offense, coach Loveday feels more confident in the position heading into 2023.

“Last year, Christian Hoffman started the year out for us,” said Loveday. “Like I said, (we) had a lot of young guys. (We) had a lot of young guys around him, which limited us some. (We) ended up going with Mason Ellis at quarterback last year… Christian has had a good summer and good offseason. Got a freshman Cooper Newman who has more potential than any quarterback that we’ve had as a freshman.”

The Smoky Bears start their season in Strawberry Plains against Carter on Friday at 7 p.m.