When the Daily Pilot asked Newport Harbor High football coach Jeff Brinkley for a player interview, the head man steered the reporter clear of the Sailors' star lineman.
Brinkley knows Ramsey Hufford is perhaps the most well-known Newport Harbor football player, yet also knows the big guy doesn't like to say much.
Hufford, instead, likes to let his play do the talking. And it appears it will say a lot this season.
The senior left tackle/defensive end, who has gained offers from Fresno State and UC Davis, is one of the top returners for the Sailors, who reached the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division quarterfinals last year and return as the division's eighth-ranked team.
He'll be depended upon to lead an offensive line that features two sophomores, and just one other returning starter.
"He handles it fine," Brinkley said of the 6-foot-4, 305-pounder's ability to deal with the notoriety. "He has a good work ethic. He's really good in the weight room. He's our strongest kid. He's fine with [the attention]. He's done a good job. He understands that he needs to go out and perform. The more success the team has the more accolades all these guys are going to get. It really stems from what we do as a team. The individual things will take care of themselves."
Brinkley said San Diego State and Cal have also shown interest in Hufford.
"He's good on both sides of the ball," Brinkley said of Hufford, the 2012 Sunset League Defensive Lineman of the Year, who earned All-CIF and Daily Pilot Dream Team honors. "Some [college recruiters] like him on offense and some guys like him on defense. I think that's what makes him attractive. They can bring him in and figure out where to play him."
Hufford is expected to excel on both sides of the ball for the Sailors.
The following is a position-by-position look at Newport Harbor, which opens the season at Trabuco Hills Friday at 7 p.m.
•Quarterback: Cole Norris, a junior who earned first-team All-Sunset League honors, returns as the starter.
Brinkley admires Norris' talent and says he is one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks that he's had run his pro-style offense. Norris started 10 games for the Sailors last year, when he threw for 1,463 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions on 109-of-186 passing.
Dalton Rosene, a sophomore transfer from JSerra, will be the backup. He has been throwing the ball really well during recent practices, Brinkley said.
"I don't really have a problem if he had to play," Brinkley said of Rosene. "I think he could be as capable as Cole was last year as a sophomore. I think he is that far along as a sophomore. He had a really good summer for us. I feel comfortable with him."
•Running back: Junior Chance Siemonsma enters as the starting tailback, taking over for Talalelei Teapua, an All-CIF runner, who was named the Offensive Player of the Year for the Sunset League and Daily Pilot Dream Team.
Siemonsma, 5-11, 156 pounds, is a different type of back than what Newport Harbor's had in the past, Brinkley said.
"He's a little more quicker and shiftier," Brinkley said. "We've had guys who are bigger and pound-the-ball type guys. But he's a good back. He's had a good off-season."
Senior Garrett Hall and junior Riley Gaddis are also expected to contribute as tailbacks. They are also receivers.
"They are more physical than Chance," Brinkley said of Hall and Gaddis. "They don't run quite as well as him, but they are bigger kids. But we will give them all a shot at carrying the football."
Trevor Shaw, a 5-10, 215-pound junior, starts at fullback, where 5-8, 195-pound senior Gerardo Aceves also plays.
•Wide Receiver: The Sailors have plenty of talent here, led by seniors Quest Truxton and Cory Stowell. Truxton earned first-team all-league and Daily Pilot Dream honors last year, while Stowell made the all-league's second team.
Junior Keaton Cablay will also be a contributor.
The group can be dangerous in three- and four-wide sets with Gaddis and Hall lining up. The talented duo can contribute as running backs and receivers.
Every other day during practice they switch with what group to work with, Brinkley said.
The receivers will be key in the Sailors' offense, as Brinkley said Newport Harbor might throw the ball more than in years past.
But that doesn't faze Truxton.
"I don't think there is a lot of pressure on us," said Truxton, who led the Sailors with 48 receptions for 762 yards and 11 touchdowns. "We were able to do it last year. Norris as our quarterback keeps us balanced. We just have some good wideouts.
•Tight End: Alex DeSoto, a 6-foot, 246-pound senior, is one of five returning starters on offense. Brinkley says he catches the ball well, and is also a good blocker.
The Sailors use the double-tight formation, frequently, Brinkley said, so junior Brett Beaudette will also see playing time.
•Offensive Line: The O-line might be a work in progress, but will have senior leaders in Hufford and Joe Zavala.
There will also be two sophomores, that's a first for Brinkley, who has been coaching for 35 years.
Brinkley will be seeking his 250th career win Friday night. A win could come if the offensive line comes together quickly.
Hufford starts at left tackle.
The Sailors will be missing starting left guard TJ Tarazevits, a 6-8, 313-pound senior, who recently had surgery on his right foot, Brinkley said. Tarazevits fractured the foot last year and needed surgery after it didn't heal well during the off-season. He should return before league play.
Senior Wyatt Savisaar, 6-1, 211 pounds, will start at left guard.
Sophomore Elliott Frye is the starting center and sophomore Joey Stukonis starts at right tackle.
Zavala, the right guard, is a returning starter for the Sailors.
"Very inexperienced," Brinkley said of the offensive line. "That's the question mark. In all my years of coaching, I can't remember a year when I started two sophomores up there. It will be interesting."
•Defensive Line: Hufford is the standout defensive end here and leads the Sailors' 4-3 defense. Stukonis is set to play defensive tackle. DeSoto makes the move from linebacker to nose guard. His aggressive play has gotten the Newport Harbor coaches excited to see what he can do on the defensive line.
"He's looked really good," Brinkley said of DeSoto. "He had a great spring and summer. We are really anxious to see what he does."
Aceves is one of the candidates to play on the other end, Brinkley said, along with Beaudette and Shaw.
Zavala is in the rotation at defensive tackle and nose guard.
•Linebacker: Gaddis makes the move from outside linebacker to the middle, a move that is ideal for his talents, Brinkley said.
"He's got the ability to flow from sideline to sideline," Brinkley said of Gaddis, a second-team all-league honoree. "He stepped up last year. We moved him to linebacker from defensive back. He became a lot more physical. And he's even more physical this year."
Cablay is a starting outside linebacker, while Rosene takes up the other outside linebacker spot.
Tretua Magalogo, a junior transfer from Tustin, is also in the mix with the outside 'backers.
•Secondary: Cornerbacks Truxton and Stowell are leaders here and have earned high praise from Brinkley.
"As a pair, they might be as good as we've ever had," Brinkley said.
Hall, a second-team all-league performer, returns as the starting strong safety.
Siemonsma is the free safety.
•Special Teams: Senior Colin Duffy is the returning long snapper.
"He's been highly ranked in a lot of the camps," Brinkley said. "He'll probably go on to play at an Ivy League school."
Junior Michael Schultz returns as the Sailors' punter and kicker. He made a game-winning 37-yard field goal in overtime in Newport Harbor's 31-28 win over Los Alamitos last year.
Gaddis and Truxton are kickoff return men and Truxton returns punts. Truxton returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown in Newport Harbor's 26-21 loss to third-seeded Villa Park in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division quarterfinals last year.