CARTHAGE -- Quarterbacks competing for the starting role can easily get rattled if they don't have the right ball, the right receiver for the pass or the right play call to demonstrate their best asset to the coaches.

Jarod Blissett mostly took it in stride as the Bulldogs' heir apparent for the starting signal caller job and a potential two-year solution at the position.

"He's a special young man," Carthage head coach Scott Surratt said. "He has a great arm and is a better athlete than people think. He's very accurate. He's been in our system, this will be his fourth year in it (including middle school). He knows what to do and now he's just got to get some experience with the live bullets going on Friday night. That's all he needs. But we do have some competition at quarterback right now. But, right now, he'd be our starter."

Junior tight end Marquise Guinn is one of two offensive starters returning from Carthage's 2013 state championship team. (Bud Worley, ETSN.fm)

Blissett represents the majority of the Bulldogs' squad. The team will have 17 new faces in starting roles after winning the 2013 Class 3A Division I title.

Monday was the moment Blissett had been waiting for. He is in the driver's seat in this quarterback competition, and he very well could be guiding his hometown team this fall.

"I couldn't ask for a better mentor to learn this system," the junior quarterback said. "Blake (Bogenshutz) was a great help. He's the greatest quarterback to come through Carthage. It's been great getting to this point and Coach Surratt helps a lot, too."

The team spent about 40 minutes of Monday's latter practice in individual drills. For the quarterbacks, the points emphasized are things fans won't single out on Friday nights.

It was mostly about foot work on the handoffs, selling the play fake and setting the feet for minor passes to nearby running backs.

But then the receivers joined the party for timing drills. That's where Blissett first shined.

He's simply a consistent passer with a consistent demeanor. You won't have to worry about Blissett shutting down after an interception or believing he is an invincible thrower after a big play.

He puts the ball in a position to be caught.

If the play is terminated on an immediate tackle, Carthage has a nice gain of yardage. But if the receiver catches an accurate pass in the open field, big things can happen with a unit featuring a nice mix of durable possession guys and outside speed.

Junior tight end Marquise Guinn is well above 6 feet tall, ranges around 225 pounds and has good hands. He's a big target for the quarterback underneath and through the middle of the coverage.

"We've got a lot of new plays from last year," Guinn said. "I should be a lot more involved. I didn't catch a lot of passes last year. This year I should get a good amount of balls coming to me."

Guinn is one of two returning offensive starters from Carthage's state team and one of five starters total. That adds to his value.

The Bulldogs' coaching staff won't lie to you. Graduation did a number to their program.

Four players are now in the major college football ranks and 16 other lettermen walked the stage.

"We've got several young guys who are going to make their first appearance on Friday night," Surratt said. "But they've worked out against some Division I players and some really good players, so they know what good football is. We'll see if we can play good football, but they definitely know what good football is."

Senior linebacker James Marshall is one of three returning defensive staters. He led the Bulldogs last season with 136 tackles.

"We've got new linebackers and a whole new D-line," Marshall said. "The secondary is kind of new. To be honest, I feel like we're going out for a new title with a new set of guys rather than defending one. No one but two or three of us have experience, but we're going to get there."

Carthage will open its season Aug. 29 at Hallsville and then host Lindale and Nacogdoches before entering District 9-4A Division I play.

"I've got a bunch of friends from Hallsville," Blissett said. "My uncle moved to Hallsville and I've got a bunch of cousins that go to school there. I'm really, really excited about playing a 5A school and showing them what Carthage can do."

James Marshall (24) records a half-sack against Center's Caiden Rainbolt during the Dawgs' Oct. 19, 2013 home win. (Bud Worley, ETSN.fm)