Mesquite running back LaDarius Turner (No. 4) and quarterback Dylan McGill (No. 12) are two key returning pieces for the Skeeter offense.

Two years ago, Mesquite did not have a lot to smile about after a 1-9 season.

After an intense offseason, the Skeeters experienced far better times on the field in the fall, posting a 5-5 record and returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Mesquite poured the same amount of intensity into this offseason, which culminated with their Spring Game last week and they are hoping that translates into a similar leap forward when the season arrives in August.

The Skeeters return 12 starters and have a number of new faces ready to make their mark on the program.

Though Mesquite is looking to build depth at the skill positions on offense, there are a number of proven playmakers.

Senior Dylan McGill opened the season splitting time at quarterback but took a majority of the snaps as the year progressed. He flashed his potential as a dual-threat, completing 52-of-114 passes for 983 yards and eight touchdowns and rushing 93 times for 635 yards and six scores.

Senior LaDarius Turner emerged as one of the top running backs in the area. Using a solid combination of strength and 4.5 speed, Turner had 177 carries for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Skeeters feature a pair of proven playmakers at receiver with senior Ja’Darion Smith (20-325, 2 TDs) and junior K.B. Frazier (16-173, 2 TDs) and both could be valuable assets in the return game. Sophomore R.J. Bonner is poised for a breakout season and can be used at both running back and in the passing game.

Junior Kevin Hodges is another player to watch both at receiver and tight end and the offensive line returns a pair of solid juniors with Telscher McDaniel and Seth Robinson.

Defensively, Mesquite will look for newcomers to step up after graduating three college-bound linemen in O’Tay Baker (Prairie View A&M), Osaretin Obadeyi (Abilene Christian) and Jaxon Turner (Oklahoma Baptist).

That unit will return end Jar’rion Smith, a senior who was named to the 11-6A third team a year ago.

Smith can also drop back and play linebacker, where he joins senior Alec Rice and junior Jayden Brown. Rice made steady improvement in just his second year playing and Brown made an instant impact, recording a team-high 114 tackles, with two for loss, three quarterback pressures and a pair of sacks on his way to earning first-team all-district honors.

Senior Dewayne Adams returns as a leader in the secondary and that group features a pair of potential breakouts with sophomores JaTravion Rudd and Mal’leyon Winfield.

A year ago, Mesquite shook off a season-opening loss to win five of its next six games and will look to get off to a good start in the fall with non-district dates against Lake Highlands, Grand Prairie, Plano West and L.D. Bell.

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson

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