CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- There seemed to be a few more question marks than usual at District 5-AAA's annual high school football media day Wednesday.
That much was clear by the preseason polls from the media and coaches, which were incredibly different.
The coaches picked defending champ McMinn County to repeat atop the big-school district, but the media tabbed the Cherokees fifth. Bradley Central, last year's runner-up, was tops in the media's eyes.
"I think the way it is this year, by writing down who you think is the favorite, you're basically just throwing darts at a wall because everything is so even," said McMinn County defensive coordinator Brad Bennett, who filled in for head coach Bo Cagle.
The one common tie between the two programs was how much they downplayed wearing the preseason target.
Bradley Central boasts University of Tennessee commit Austin Sanders at offensive tackle and returns four-year starter Bryce Copeland at quarterback, but graduated top-level talent at just about every other skill position.
"Last year we were probably the fastest team Bradley's ever had," said head coach Damon Floyd. "I don't know that we'll ever be like that again. I feel his year we have a lot of kids that are really competitive, but when you compare them to Justin (Houston), James (Stovall) and Rue (Golsten), they're probably not that fast."
The Cherokees are also looking for skill position help after losing senior quarterback Nathan Simbeck, but will enjoy some experience on both the offensive and defensive lines.
"We're pretty much the opposite of what we were last year, when we were worried about the guys up front," Bennett said. "We lost some speed at receiver, though, and we're replacing our quarterback with a sophomore, so that will limit what we can do early in the season."
Ooltewah graduated some of its biggest playmakers and most of its size after a second-round playoff run a year ago.
"We may be the smallest team you'll ever see at this level, but we've got guys who find ways to make plays," said Owls' coach Shannon Williams. "Obviously it's a concern, but it's tempered by the fact this group has a really good spirit about them.
"These guys just seem to show up and do what it takes to get better every day, and that's all you can ask."
Kevin Orr asked a lot of tailback Cedric Edwards over the past few years at Soddy-Daisy. Now the fourth-year coach hopes the Trojans can find the right mix to fill his void in the backfield.
"You're a great coach because you hand the football to the guy you know who can get it done, and we did that a lot," Orr said. "We've got three running backs now that are vying to replace Cedric, so we'll do it by committee."
The biggest change in Doug Greene's second year at Rhea County is new state-of-the-art AstroTurf on the field, but it's not the one he seems most excited about.
"You'll notice up here the green helmet. We got off track last year and got us those yellow helmets, but the first chance I got I got us back to green. That's made a lot of people happy in town," said Greene, who took the Golden Eagles' job late last summer ahead of a 1-9 season.
Two new coaches will make their 5-AAA debut in August.
Cleveland's Ron Crawford is the new guy in town, replacing E.K. Slaughter atop the Blue Raiders' program. The former Brentwood head coach comes to the Tennessee Valley after more than two decades in Middle Tennessee.
"This is really unfamiliar territory for me. This is a new experience, but we're going to try our best to compete," said Crawford, who added Cleveland will utilize a spread, no-huddle offense and a 3-4 defense.
Offensive coordinator Glen Ryan was promoted to at Walker Valley to replace Ted Lockerby, who will serve as defensive backs coach at McMinn County this year.
Ryan, a former Soddy-Daisy head coach, went right to work last November trying to expand the Mustangs' brand on campus, and he hopes it translates to the product on the field.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Ryan said. "Where we're going to be is to be seen. I know this, they're a hard-working group of guys, and we are starting to get better."
Most 5-AAA teams will take part in the annual prep jamboree at Finley Stadium the weekend of August 10. Week 0 in Tennessee kicks off the 2012 season a week later on August 17.
District 5-AAA Preseason Media Poll
1) Bradley Central
5) McMinn County
6) Rhea County
7) Walker Valley
District 5-AAA Preseason Coaches Poll
1) McMinn County
2) Bradley Central
6) Rhea County
7) Walker Valley