Click here for interviews/practice action

Dunbar Poets

2010 record: 13-1 (Class 1A state champions; No.  6 in final VSN Top 20; No. 22 in statewide media poll)

Coach: Lawrence Smith

Returning starters: 16

Key returnees: Charles Brown, Fullback/Middle linebacker, Sr.; Joshua Davis, Offensive line/Defensive line, Sr.; Marvin Gross, Defensive end, Jr.; Ernest Hawkins, Tight end/Linebacker, Sr.; Aaron Haynes, Wide receiver/Cornerback, Sr.; Lamar Highsmith, Linebacker/Running back, Sr.; Dariz Hill, Offensive line/Defensive line, Jr.; Jaquan Holt, Running back, Jr.; Deon’Tay McManus, Wide receiver/Safety, Sr.; Terrence Williams, Cornerback/Wide receiver, Sr.

Key newcomer: William Crest, Quarterback, So.

Outlook: The Poets should be again the class of Baltimore City and the state Class 1A. The east Baltimore school, winners of an area-best seven state titles, returns an impressive nucleus that captured a fourth state crown in five seasons last fall.

McManus, who has verbally committed to West Virginia University, is arguably the area’s best player. He’s one of several offensive weapons along with Division I prospects Brown (offer from Liberty University), Hawkins (Purdue), Highsmith (Elon, Marshall and Youngstown State) and Williams (Texas-El Paso, Toledo and Youngstown) with a pair of space eaters on the line in Davis and Hill, who’s one of the top juniors in the state.

Smith said the quarterback position is up for grabs between Estep and Crest. Estep, who scored the winning touchdown in the Poets’ state semifinal victory over Fort Hill, started the final six games last season.

Defensively, the Poets will be imposing with Gross, Hill and Davis up front with Brown, McManus, Highsmith, Hawkins, Haynes and Williams in the back. Dunbar allowed just 88 points last season including a stretch of six consecutive shutouts.

“We’re strong and athletic, but we have to learn the game of football,” said Smith, who’s won three state titles in his first four seasons at Dunbar. “We’re far from being a well-oiled machine. We have the potential to do some really good things.”