The defense is deep and fast. The offensive line may be better than any Henderson has had in the Dickey Meeks era. The backs and receivers are a mix of proven veterans and promising players with a lot to prove.

But who plays quarterback?

Record-setting QB Del Barnes, now at Cornell, led Henderson to a 24-5 record the past two seasons, including the 2010 Class 3A Division I state championship. Now a trio of players -- senior Jansen Moore, junior Connor Dotson and 6-5, 210-pound sophomore Zane Boles -- have a shot at becoming the next leader of an offense that will have plenty of weapons, such as do-it-all athlete Patrick “Monster” Brown, who scored 21 touchdowns five different ways in 2011. Henderson also boasts a Division I-bound offensive lineman in Nick Siler (6-4, 255), who is committed to Air Force.

Lineman Bo Brady and linebacker Jamaal Kind will be the featured pieces in Henderson’s defense, which allowed a respectable 20.4 points per game last season. That defense will need to be versatile since it will face numerous schemes in the new District 16-3A, or “District of Doom 2.0.” Gilmer’s trademark balanced spread, Chapel Hill’s uptempo spread, and Kilgore’s physical ground game present varying challenges during league play.

If Henderson can get out of 16-3A, the Lions will again be a threat for a deep playoff run. A first-round meeting with Van could precede a second-round meeting with Atlanta, Pittsburg or Liberty-Eylau. Then Argyle (if it’s not in the Division I bracket) or Celina in the third round before a potential rematch with Gilmer or Chapel Hill in the regional final.

In other words, the Lions may have a brutal road to their third consecutive state semifinal appearance.

3A Countdown

No. 5: Chapel Hill

No. 6: Palestine

No. 7: Atlanta

No. 8: Van

No. 9: Jasper

No. 10: Rusk