With high school and college football camps opening in earnest this week, here are developing story lines to follow:
Can Sacramento State pull another early stunner? – A year after bouncing Oregon State 29-28 in overtime in Corvallis, the Hornets have road openers against New Mexico State on Aug. 30 and Colorado on Sept. 8. Of immediate concern for the Hornets is, who starts at quarterback? Is it Garrett Safron or Nevada transfer Mason Magleby from Del Oro High School?
Can UC Davis send Bob Biggs out a winner? – That's the goal in Yolo County, where the retiring Biggs has been an Aggies fixture since his playing days in the 1970s. Biggs, the head coach since 1993, jokes that as a "closet rocker," he's ready for a motor home concert tour across the country.
Community colleges – how good? – They have never been stronger, with American River riding an 18-game winning streak and rivals Sierra and Sacramento City fielding talented rosters after injury-ravaged 2011 seasons. Already explosive ARC will add Olympic Trials-qualifying sprinter Diondre Batson at wide receiver.
Is Hughes Stadium ready? – The historic Sac City venue, with new FieldTurf, is expected to be ready in September. High schools may also regularly use Hughes again, the stadium's original purpose when it opened in 1928.
Who has the top-ranked high school team? – There is no clear area preseason favorite, as Grant was in 2010, when the Pacers were ranked No. 1 in the state for the season's first 12 weeks, or last season when Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove started with a No. 8 national ranking. An early Top 10 could look like this: Elk Grove, Del Oro, Granite Bay, Grant, Nevada Union, Pleasant Grove, Franklin, Folsom, Oak Ridge and Placer.
Early games to consider – Showdowns include the Aug. 24-25 Battle for Veterans in Loomis featuring Del Oro against Oaks Christian of Westlake Village and Granite Bay vs. Westlake. Another opener is Elk Grove at Sac-Joaquin Section preseason No. 1 Lincoln of Stockton, followed by Week 1 games: Nevada Union at Grant, and Pleasant Grove at Lincoln.
Can the best player dominate without touching the ball? – Yes, you can find Placer's 6-foot-4, 303-pound defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes in the trenches. The USC verbal commit also will play some tight end and fullback, prompting his coach, Joey Montoya, to say, "I'd hate to tackle him."
Can Grant actually be better? – The Pacers bid farewell to Shaq Thompson, the versatile Bee Player of the Year now at Washington, but return fast and physical players, headed by safety-wide receiver recruit Trayvon Henderson, who defensive coordinator Reggie Harris says "can be better than Shaq."
Who is the section's biggest transfer? – Welcome to Grass Valley, Cole Hannum. A 6-2, 220-pound senior fullback-linebacker by way of Marysville, he rushed for 1,827 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. He joins Hank Humphers and Tanner Vallejo to give Nevada Union the section's top linebacking trio.
Who is best player on an unsung team? – Ponderosa linebacker Jeff Camilli is a 6-3, 235-pounder with a growing recruiting profile. He vows to end his program's 10-game Delta River League losing streak. Sporting a hearty beard, he goes by "The Viking."
Which league is the best? – The argument for the Sierra Foothill League starts with contenders Del Oro, Granite Bay and Nevada Union. The Delta River League again is top heavy with Pleasant Grove, Folsom and Oak Ridge. All are Division I programs except D-II Del Oro and Folsom.