TYLER -- First-year John Tyler head coach Ricklan Holmes believes in a concept that seems simple, but a lot of large-school coaches avoid: put your best players on the field at all times.

That's what Holmes said Monday as the Lions opened fall practice with 16 starters back from an 11-4 Class 4A Division I state semifinalist team. John Tyler enters the 2012 season with expectations as high as the Lions have faced in a decade, and Holmes plans to meet those with his best athletes playing as much as possible.

"That's most definitely going to happen. The only way I know how to win is with the best 11 guys on the field," Holmes said.

The schemes -- spread offense, 4-3 defense -- will be similar to what John Tyler ran under former coach Dereck Rush, who left this past spring for Conroe Oak Ridge. Holmes, an assistant under Rush, takes over a team that returns all but two of its offensive starters.

"You're pretty much going to see the same deal that you've seen (scheme-wise). We've got a copule of wrinkles here and there, and that comes from me," Holmes said. "You've always got to bring a little flair and pizzazz to what you want, but as far as most of it, everything was already set in place by coach Rush. Basically all I had to do is get in the driver's seat, press a couple of different buttons, and keep it going in the same direction."

The engine behind John Tyler's smooth-running offense is quarterback Greg Ward (5-10, 160), who threw for 3,600 yards and ran for 1,200 as a junior. But Ward, a Houston commitment as an athlete, has plenty of options to throw to.

Fred Ross (6-1, 185) was one of the state's best receivers in 2011 and is committed to Oklahoma State. Then there's Darion Flowers, JT's other 1,000-yard receiver. Plus Justice Liggins (6-1, 192), Dequante Woods (5-11, 175), and a slew of other playmakers, including junior tailback Reggie Gipson and defensive end Tyus Bowser (6-3, 205), who will play both ways at various positions.

"The receiving corps is amazing," Holmes said. "The names are endless right now. You have a lot of weapons to throw to."

John Tyler averaged 43.0 points per game last season, scoring 52 or more points six times. During an 11-game winning streak, the Lions scored 49.3 points.

John Tyler moves to the new District 16-4A, which also houses Corsicana, Jacksonville, Lindale, Nacogdoches, and Whitehouse. The Lions enter the season as clear favorites in 16-4A and most likely in Class 4A's Division I Region II bracket. The Lions won the 2011 regional title before losing to Waco Midway in the state semifinals. Midway moved up to Class 5A.

John Tyler scrimmages rival Longview on Aug. 24 at Lobo Stadium before opening the season at home Aug. 31 against Lufkin.