WHITE OAK -- Gerry Stanford won five games and nine games, respectively, in his first two seasons in White Oak. With 15 returning starters, expectations are even higher for Year 3.

Stanford and the Roughnecks continued season-opening two-a-day practices Tuesday morning at their practice field behind Roughneck Stadium on the White Oak High School campus.

"The third year of being in this offense and the second year being in this defense, it's a lot better to be able to go out to practice and talk concepts and scheme and being on the same page as far as language," Stanford said. "We're over the language barrier now, so to speak."

White Oak WR Gabe Michael. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Watching White Oak's pass skeleton drills made it obvious that returning starting quarterback Dylan Gale and his fleet of experienced receivers could put up big numbers for a second consecutive year. Gale threw for 2,281 yards, 24 touchdowns, and eight interceptions during the Roughnecks' 9-3 campaign a season ago. He'll have three of his top four receivers back from last season in leading receiver Jansen McCurdy, Gabe Michael, and Hayden Nichols, who are all primed for big senior seasons.

With so many familiar faces back, Stanford said the Roughnecks are ironing out wrinkles.

"The biggest thing we're doing is just making sure we're honing in on the details of our scheme and installation, and filling in the gaps," he said.

White Oak WR/DE Hayden Nichols. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)

But not everyone returns.

One position of concern is linebacker, where the Roughnecks lost their top two tacklers -- all-state selections Tyler Loven and Hunter Owens -- to graduation. Loven finished third in East Texas with 190 tackles a year ago, while Owens had 127.

Not only did Owens make an impact on defense, he ran for 1,129 yards and 13 touchdowns, while catching 14 passes for 234 yards and three scores en route to District 9-2A Division I MVP honors.

"You always hope to have people to fill right in," Stanford said. "That'll be a work in progress. But neither one of those guys had ever played linebacker before last year, and it was a growth process."

White Oak's new linebackers will get a stiff test in the Roughnecks' first scrimmage, which is the evening of Aug. 16 at run-heavy Hughes Springs. The Mustangs return 1,900-yard rusher Michael Martinez from last season's 12-1 team that reached the Class 2A Division II Region III championship game.

White Oak quarterback Dylan Gale fires a pass during Tuesday morning's two-a-day practice at White Oak High School. (Christopher Vinn, ETSN.fm)