TJ Cephers finished last season with 111 total tackles.

Name: TJ Cephers

The rundown: Cephers is a 6-foot-1-inch, 210-pound linebacker at Marana High School.

Who he is: Marana is known for its up-tempo spread offense, but Cephers is one of the Tigers’ leaders as a senior linebacker. Cephers has the height of a Division I linebacker and is built like a tank. Over the last two seasons, Cephers played linebacker in a 4-2-5 defensive scheme and made plays running sideline to sideline, but don’t let that fool you. When it comes time for a stop on the goal line or short-yardage situations, Cephers is around to bull-rush and make plays.

First-year head coach Louie Ramirez said he fell into the perfect situation accepting the job at Marana because of the athletes on rosters.

That begins with Cephers. The linebacker grew up in both Tucson and Colorado, but opted to remain in the Old Pueblo for his high school football career. He models his style of play after former All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis.

Proof he’s good: Cephers has been a starter on Marana’s defense since he was a sophomore. As a sophomore, Cephers ranked second on the team with 98 tackles. In 2017, Cephers led Marana with 111 total tackles. How did it compare to other defenders on the team? Cephers had 34 more tackles than the middle linebacker. Marana defensive coordinator Vince Amey, a former UA assistant, said he’s most impressed with Cephers’ football IQ. He’s “another coach on the field,” Amey said.

Cephers will line up at middle linebacker more this season.

He said it: “He is the leader of this defense. We’re going to rely on him a lot this year. He’s had over 100 tackles the last two seasons and his knowledge, passion and love for the game while being a tenacious defender and relentless competitor is going to take us a long way. He rallies guys, and the younger guys look up to him tremendously. We have a special group of kids on this team, and TJ is one of them, and we’ll rely on him a tremendous amount this season.” — Ramirez