In each of the last three seasons, the Garden City Community College Broncbusters’ defense has added a high-profile Division I transfer during the summer prior to the season.

Whether it was Jeremy Faulk, Mike Hughes, or Austen Robertson, an uber-talented player came into camp as an immediate infusion of skill and versatility for third-year defensive coordinator Josh Hager.

Coming into the 2018 season opener at 7 p.m. vs. Dodge City at Broncbuster Stadium, the Busters might be missing that centerpiece addition.

“Often times, those kind of situations that have happened in the past require somebody to make an error and then choose to come to Garden,” Hager said, referencing guys like Hughes who was dismissed from the University of North Carolina before enrolling at GCCC in 2016.

But Hager and the Busters may make up for that with solid pieces returning throughout all levels of the defense — and some key newcomers.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of getting the right people here,” he said.

That includes a ton of returners in the back eight in the base 3-4 defense, such as Deric Rucker and Andreus Price in the secondary.

“We have Ruck (Rucker) back, which is a big deal,” Hager said. “He’s definitely a veteran … And Trae Meadows (at cornerback), having been at N.C. State and been here in the spring is a big plus for us, because we can play him anywhere in the secondary.”

At linebacker, they return Joe Jay Smith, Heston Lameta and Brandon Mincey, and also get Dillon Williams back, after the Holcomb product racked up 49 tackles in nine games in 2017. Williams had transferred to Southwestern, but ended up re-joining the Busters just after the beginning of fall camp.

“Dillon is a tremendous football player, and we believed in his ability and where he can and will end up when we’re done with this season,” Hager said. “he’s the kind of kid you absolutely want. He’s going to work hard, he’s going to do everything you ask of him, and he’s pretty darn talented.”

Williams, Mincey, Lameta and Krishon Merriweather have all battled it out for the two inside linebacker spots, Hager said.

“All of them have had a black jersey at some point, which means they graded out at a plus — they exceeded our expectations (at practice),” Hager said. “Those four guys have really, really competed hard, and pushed one another to make each other better.”

Up front may be the Busters’ least experienced unit, but they do return Jabbar Price (40 tackles in 2017) and Kahari Foy-Walton (one tackle) at the ends. Inside, the Busters will also start a familiar face to Garden City football fans — Garden City High School graduate and GCCC freshman Demarcus Elliott.

“He’s a really hard worker, and he’s definitely very athletic.” Hager said of Elliott, who was an All-State lineman for the Buffs in 2017. “He can run, and he understands the game. He understands leverage … We’re expecting him to be a really good player for us this fall. That’s what he’s earned and deserved because of his ability.”

In 2017, the Buster defense took a step back from their historic 2016 defense, giving up 22.8 points per game and 306.3 yards per game — but both were still top 25 in the NJCAA.