NEW CHAPEL HILL -- Spend a few minutes at Chapel Hill football practice and you'll quickly realize how ready the Bulldogs are for Friday's first day in pads.

Chapel Hill coaches needed to remind their players a couple of times to save their physicality for later in the week, but that's always a good problem to have.

Fifth-year head coach Thomas Sitton said the first few days of two-a-day practices have gone well.

Chapel Hill's Joseph Clark tracks the ball during Wednesday morning's practice at Bulldog Stadium. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

"We had a real good spring. The kids learned a lot of football this spring. We came back these first three days and really reviewed what we went over and we wanted to make sure we did it at a fast pace," said Sitton, who has a 36-14 record in his first four years with the Bulldogs. "The things we're looking for are effort and enthusiasm, and guys encouraging each other and guys not thinking of themselves, putting the team first before everything."

Sitton led Chapel Hill to its best two-year span in school history in 2010-11, when the Bulldogs went 13-2 and 15-0, respectively. They lost in the Class 3A Division I title game the first year before winning it with a 20-19 victory vs. Alvarado the second time around.

Last year's 3-7 campaign came on the heels of mass graduation losses. Chapel Hill returned only 2 of 22 starters from the championship team, but miscues had a lot to do with the sub-par season, according to Sitton.

Chapel Hill's D.D. Mumphrey runs conditioning sprints during an Aug. 7 practice at Bulldog Stadium. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

"We just wanna play smart football. That's the No. 1 thing. Last year we had way too many mental mistakes that cost us penalties and turnovers and things like that," Sitton said. "We wanna be where we're doing things right when we get tired in the fourth quarter, that we're still locked in and we're still doing things the way that they've been coached to do. To push through that and fight through and to still stay locked in and mentally focused on what we're doing is gonna carry us on and help us to hopefully get ready to win a bunch of football games."

Chapel Hill returns seven starters on each side of the ball. Quarterback Andrew Black has two seasons of starting experience -- one in Jacksonville, one in Chapel Hill -- while Texas Tech-committed senior Joseph Clark is back after leading the team in rushing last season and finishing with 104 tackles. Although he'll play defensive back in college, he'll man the middle of the Chapel Hill defense from a linebacker spot this fall.

Athletic classmate Wesley Thompson returns at outside linebacker, while other seniors -- defensive linemen Keith Minor and Kevone Kennedy, defensive backs D.D. Mumphrey, Sammy Guzman, and Gabriel Robinson -- give Sitton plenty of experience and athleticism on a unit with a lot of potential.

Chapel Hill plays Mabank and Athens in scrimmages Aug. 16 and Aug. 23, respectively. The Bulldogs open the season Aug. 30 at home vs. Lindale.

Chapel Hill's Andrew Black drops back to pass during Wednesday morning's practice at Bulldog Stadium. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)