CAMPBELL - If one were to ask the head coach of a high school football team what is the strength to any good team, he'll probably tell them that the nucleus begins with the line, offensively and defensively.
If one asked Campbell coach Mickey Sikora about his team, he would say the linebackers as the Red Devils prepare for the 2012 season.
The Red Devils finished 7-3 last year and won the AAC Blue championship for the second straight season since Sikora's arrival in 2010. Though they did not reach the playoffs, part of the reason for success was 165 points the defense allowed with the linebackers having a major role.
Leading the charge was Charles Smith as he enters his senior season. Smith collected 78 tackles (10 for a loss) last year and must be the catalyst on defense.
"Yeah it's added pressure, but as a leader on the defense, we expect the defense to have our back and a good defensive line that's going to help us out, too," Smith said. "With the talent in the secondary, that should help us out, too."
Sikora said what makes Smith dangerous is his savvy and smarts.
"He'll be able to set the defense up, get us pointed in the right direction, and he has an uncannily ability to make plays," Sikora said. "He plays with speed, but he also plays with his brain, and that's due to his experience."
Smith feels added pressure to himself as well as the entire line backing core but does everything he can to lead by example. He said key elements in order to evolve into a leader are showing up to practice early, run drills quicker than expected and knowing what one must do without coaches having to repeat over and over again.
Smith added that Campbell linebackers from a few years back taught him an invaluable lesson.
"They always taught me to keep my head up," he said. "You're not going to make a great play every play, but you need to be in position and just have a good work ethic."
Smith, along with improving his game, is also tutoring two junior linebackers under him, Jayle'll Shorter and Adrien Brown, that will be starting as well.
"Charles Smith is like my mentor," Brown said. "I look up to him as my role model at linebacker. He's teaching me everything that I know. We always pick each other up."
Brown recorded 66 tackles (eight for a loss) and eight sacks last season as a sophomore.
Shorter also said Smith is a tutor to him as well as Brown even though they are in the same grade.
"Both of our linebackers are pretty good," Shorter said. "Charles Smith, he teaches me everything even as an inside linebacker to an outside linebacker. Adrian, being in the same grade as me, he teaches me stuff, too. He makes me better everyday. We all come together as a team."
Smith taught Shorter the same lesson he learned two years ago.
"He's been teaching me to always keep my head up and don't always put your head down because of a bad play or something," Shorter said.
Smith said he sees a lot of potential in Shorter and Brown to be the catalysts next season after he graduates.
"They're young, but they learn pretty quick," Smith said. "They listen, they know what to do (and) they just work hard all the time."