Discipline is the main preaching point for the Minot High School defensive backs heading into the season.
The Magicians' senior starters at cornerback and safety are among the team's most athletic players, but eliminating poor tendencies will determine the secondary's success.
Kimani Benjamin and Josh Pizzo are cornerbacks and Alex Yanosko, the team's all-state quarterback, is setting up at free safety.
Minot High School senior cornerback Josh Pizzo backpedals during Monday's practice at Magic City Campus.
MHS defensive coordinator Jerry Danelson believes his corners are on the cusp of being standouts and Yanosko expects the pair to have all-state seasons.
"Pizzo, he is probably the best cover corner I've had for a long time," said Danelson, in his 15th year with the program. "He's a feisty little guy, sometimes to a fault with him. He can get himself in trouble with that, but he can cover with the best of 'em.
"Kimani is athletic as any kid we have. He's just gotta realize that other kids are athletic. Sometimes his technique and form gets out of whack."
Yanosko's role on defense was limited in his first two seasons running the offense, but at 6-foot-2 and 212 pounds he provides a physical and fast fail-safe for the defense.
"I don't know how he's gonna be at free safety," Danelson said. "He hasn't played much on the defensive side of the ball. Athletically, you know that he's as good as we got, so we're hoping for big things."
Yanosko will be responsible for calling out coverages.
"I used to play defense all the time," Yanosko said. "That was my main thing. I used to play middle linebacker, so I know what I'm doing on defense. It's easier than being a quarterback in my opinion, so I feel pretty confident coming in."
The secondary will receive help in coverage as MHS will often go with five linebackers and three on the line. Danelson expects to see spread formations from Century. Athletes from Bismarck High and Dickinson also will challenge the cornerbacks' abilities in man-to-man situations.
"Kimani's shutdown and Josh makes his own little island out there," Yanosko said. "Makes you feel alone if you're a receiver, so I don't think that there's gonna be a lot of easy receptions on those guys."
Pizzo, at 5-8 and 153, feels he's improved in press coverage, which will allow him to jam receivers and minimize the advantage taller opponents may have on him downfield.
Danelson listed senior Tre Kinchen and sophomore Ben Bolinske as top reserves at cornerback. Kinchen plays opposite of Benjamin at wide receiver and could provide the two-way starter with an occasional break.
"I think the biggest part with all those kids is they've all been in the weight room," Danelson said. "I mean, they're all in the weight room, all working hard, so it's not like they're stepping out here right now, 'Oh, we gotta get in shape.' "
Juniors Drew Repnow and Ta'Vaydron Davis add depth at safety. Davis joined MHS in the Spring.
"(Davis is) an athletic kid, it's just we've got to get him up to speed with our coverages," Danelson said. "He's a junior who's kind of just working his way through it. He has the tools."
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.
Editor's note: This is part five of an eight-part series breaking down each unit of the Minot High School football team. Defensive linemen will be featured in Friday's paper.