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Marlon Humphrey and the Hoover Buccaneers are the best in Alabama.
Alabama Preseason Top 10
1. Hoover Buccaneers
It’s not exactly a bold prediction to call for the Bucs to return to the state title game — Hoover has been there every year this century with the exception of 2008. Winning the game will be another matter, as the Bucs will look to replace a corps of senior leaders with a strong group of younger stars, including superstar senior Marlon Humphrey along with rising juniors Christian Bell and Darrell Williams on defense.
2. Clay-Chalkville Cougars (Pinson)
After a fourth-round playoff loss to Hoover to end last season, the Cougars will be out for revenge this fall, and they’ll have the weapons to pull it off. Clay-Chalkville returns quarterback Hayden Moore and running back Sidney Battle, and the Cougars boasted one of the state’s most stifling defenses last season.
3. Auburn Tigers
One of the state’s top producers of college talent, Auburn once again features a large crop of impressive athletes, including defensive end Rashaan Evans and cornerback/wide receiver Blaise Taylor.
4. Opelika Bulldogs
The surprise of the 2012 season, the Bulldogs shocked high school football fans with their unlikely run to the 6A state title game. They return cornerback Stephen Roberts (an Alabama commit) and tight end Jakell Mitchell (an Auburn commit).
5. Spanish Fort Toros
Coming off his second state title in the last three seasons, head coach Mark Freeman will look to fill the holes left by a strong senior class, including breaking in a new starting quarterback.
6. Carver Wolverines (Montgomery)
After making a run to the state semifinals last season, Carver loses Mr. Football winner Jeremy Johnson but returns defensive stars Shaun Hamilton and Jon Michael Edwards.
7. Calera Eagles
After a tough early exit from last year’s playoffs, the Eagles will enter the 2013 season with plenty of motivation and with one of the state’s top athletes in two-way star Ronnie Clark.
8. Muscle Shoals Trojans
The Trojans must reload after losing star defensive lineman Dee Liner and their top two rushers from last season’s undefeated regular-season run.
9. St. Paul’s Episcopal Saints (Mobile)
One of the powerhouses of the Mobile area, St. Paul’s will look to make yet another deep playoff run thanks to elite stars like linebacker Tre’ Williams and offensive lineman Joshua Casher.
10. Vigor Wolves (Prichard)
New head coach Ashley Johnson hopes to lead the Wolves back into the state championship discussion. Key players include running back Desherrius Flowers and defensive end Justin Thornton.
Five Can't Miss Matchups
8.30 – Colquitt County (Ga.) at Hoover
Alabama’s top program opens the season against one of the top teams in Georgia. The real intrigue centers around Colquitt County’s head coach Rush Propst, the former Hoover head coach who built the Bucs into a powerhouse program.
8.30 – Tanner at Madison Academy
Another intriguing opening weekend game features the defending state champions from the 2A and 3A divisions squaring off against each other. Tanner has lost just twice in the last three years. Madison Academy boasts several major college prospects.
9.13 – Thomasville at UMS-Wright
A rematch of one of the 2012 season’s most exciting games, a 49–42 shootout between the top two teams in the Mobile area. UMS-Wright pulled off the road win last year. Can Thomasville return the favor this season?
9.20 – Davidson at McGill-Toolen
Another big matchup between two of the Mobile area’s powerhouse programs. Last year’s game was a 29–28 thriller in favor of McGill-Toolen, but the Yellowjackets will be breaking in a new starting QB this season.
10.25 – Auburn at Opelika
These rivals split their two meetings last season, with Opelika eliminating Auburn from the playoffs. Both teams return key pieces on both offense and defense along with loads of SEC-level talent.
2013 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Racean Thomas, RB, Oxford
Senior, 5-11, 195
Thomas goes by the nickname “Rock,” and over the past two seasons, he has more than earned that moniker. He was named first-team All-State (Alabama Sports Writers Association) and second-team All-American (247Sports) as a junior for his 1,968-yard, 26-touchdown performance (combined rushing and receiving) that almost single-handedly propelled a young Oxford Yellow Jackets squad to six wins. As one of the top offensive playmakers in the Class of 2014, Thomas is likely to be the subject of an intense recruiting battle between Alabama and Auburn, though out of state schools have shown interest as well, including Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss. Thomas has the soft hands to contribute as a receiving threat while his solid frame and tackle-breaking ability make him an ideal running back in the SEC, where toughness is a must for a between-the-tackles runner. With a more experienced quarterback and offensive line in front of him, “Rock” could be poised for his best season yet in 2013.
2013 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Hoover
Senior, 6-1, 175
After Humphrey’s junior season — highlighted by four interceptions and 15 pass breakups — recruiting analysts raved about his astounding speed and quickness. Humphrey put those skills to use again during the spring when he broke numerous state and national track and field records. Widely regarded as the nation’s top cornerback in the class of 2014, Humphrey has also proven himself to be a dangerous special teams threat, blocking two punts and returning two kickoffs for touchdowns. At 6'1", 175 pounds, Humphrey also has the size to get physical with receivers in press man-to-man coverage, an asset that makes him a strong candidate for early playing time at the college level. Humphrey’s athletic prowess hardly comes as a surprise — he’s the son of former University of Alabama running back Bobby Humphrey. Many expect that the Crimson Tide legacy will end up in Tuscaloosa, but he has also shown significant interest in South Carolina as well.