This week, Ringling stepped back on the field and things were different.

Fresh off a Class A state championship last fall, the Blue Devils were moving at a faster pace and walking with a bigger stick.

But that's about all that's changed.

Head coach Tracy Gandy and 18 returning starters from last year's title team began practice this week, hoping to build off of last year's success.

"There's a lot of excitement out here," Gandy said. "The hard things of the season haven't hit us yet, so right now we're just enjoying practice right now. These guys are so excited, they have been since our last game last year."

The Blue Devils started practice on Monday, but they've already made improvements in an area that three-year starter and senior quarterback Taner Richardson thinks will help come later in the season.

"We've really been working on our short passing game," Richardson said. "We've improved a lot from last year in that. We've gotten a lot better on that in the first week."

Richardson returns along with 10 other starters on offense and many more who played. He says one of the keys to this season is making sure everyone is on the same page and for his team to be patient.

"We've just got to get these young guys to buy in during the first couple of weeks of practice. We don't have a game and it seems like it takes forever, but we just have to buy in because when the time gets here, it's going to be a lot more fun and definitely be worth it."

Of course, easy for him to say, he walked the walk during last year's championship run, making clutch play after clutch play to help the Blue Devils to the title. But Richardson thinks that this year's team, at this point, is right on pace, or maybe a little ahead.

"We look better than we did last year at this time," Ricahdson said. "We've got almost everyone back and everyone is a year older, so right now, we look really good."

And the work ethic of a team fresh off its first title in almost 10 years? Right where you'd expect it to be.

"They had an outstanding year in the weight room," said Gandy. "I thought our kids did a better job in the offseason than any other we've had here. Success breeds success. They're just so excited to get back out here and play again. It shows and it defintely carries over to the young kids."

Follow Carter on Twitter: @wcarterARD