The Auburn Tigers are coming off the 7A AHSAA Championship game when they fell to Thompson at Jordan-Hare Stadium last season. The Tigers want to return and get that 7A championship this season, but they need to fill a few holes to start the 2023 season.
The Tigers have been in good shape the last few years but will go with an inexperienced quarterback to start the season. Two guys that have been competing have been Jackson Kilgore and Max Hammer.
The running back position has a good one in tailback Tyler Flakes. The senior running back has the quickness and power to break a long run at any time on the field. Also, Flakes can catch a pass out of the backfield and turn it into a big play.
The wide receiver group is talented. Tremarcus Webb and Ian Nation return. Nation was the Tigers' big-play receiver and made many of them last season. Nation has excellent hands and is a good route runner. Look for Webb to make a significant contribution this season.
The Tigers offensive line was a big part of the offense last season. Auburn had one of the best offensive lines in the state. Offensive Jalen Foster is solid, will be the leader for this group, and has the most experience returning.
The defense was massive for the Tigers last season. After giving up considerable points to Central-Phenix City in a regular season game, the defense rose to the occasion in the playoff game against Central to get the enormous playoff win.
Defensive linemen Caleb Pitts and Kyle King are good and will shut down the run. Linebackers Whatt Trexler, Eliga Reynolds, Samuel Williams, and Titus Hudson are good in the box.
The secondary has Davis Smith, Andrew Hahn, Amory Witcher, and Jailyn Davis. This group will be tested Friday night against the Bucs speedy receivers.
Kicker Towns McGough returns, and he has a big leg and is a significant asset for the Tigers. McGough can kick a 64-yard field goal if needed. McGough holds offers from Auburn, Tennessee, and a few more. The senior kicker is in the top five in the nation.
After beating Thompson in the regular season, the Hoover Bucs lost to Thompson in the 2022 playoffs and fell short of the 7A championship game but came back this season with a good fall camp. "It has been a good fall camp," said Bucs head coach Wade Waldrop. "Pleased with our intensity, focus on the practice field, and we are looking to play to find answers to some of our questions."
The Bucs want to return and have a good core of players returning this season. Freshman quarterback Noah Schuback made his way to the starting lineup early in the season due to injury and will take the reigns to start the 2023 season. "We will be looking for consistency on offense," added Waldrop. "Every day, Noah gets a better handle than we have asked him to do. We asked him not to put us in bad situations, but he is a different player in decision-making this season. We have a long way to go, but we are ready for the start." Senior Any Howard will back up Schuback a transfer from Albertville.
The Bucs have a stable of running backs, and Kamal Amerson returns with a lot of experience. Senior Chalmers Peters will add the necessary depth to the position. Peters returns after sitting out a season. Keilen Jefferson and JR Mosley will get some playing time to spell the two senior running backs.
Schuback is going to have a lot of options to throw the ball to. Wide receiver Jordan Woolen can fly and stretch the field with the best of them. "Jordan had a great camp and is a big part of our passing game," added Waldrop. "He is a great leader and had a great season last year when we could get the ball to him. Jordan was very effective in the second half of the season, and we look to get him the ball at a more consistent time. He never complains and is a great teammate for our team.
With Woolen are Freddy Dunson and Jonah Winston. Dunson has a lot of returning experience and is another big play receiver. Dunson is a solid route runner with good hands. Winston started the 2023 season at quarterback but has found a home at the slot position. But don't be surprised to see him under center on a few plays.
At tight end is Christopher Warren. Warren is a good blocker but can find his way into the secondary on a pass play. Tyson Batchelor will be his backup.
The offensive line has some holes to fill in due to graduation. Toby Richard and Rashad Smith lead the left side of the line. Newcomers Trot English, Storm Fain, and TJ Fields will need to make an impact early in the season.
The 2022 Bucs defense was probably the best in class 7A. Back is linebacker Bradley Shaw. "We are very pleased with his growth over the summer," said Waldrop. "He is getter better and better. He continues to improve as a player and a leader for this team. I look for him to have a big year." Cooper Darty will be with Shaw in the middle.
The defensive line is talented. Micah Hampton, Michael Nixon, Jamar Jones, and Pa'Landing Drammeh will get the start. Other rotation linemen will be Cam Torbor, Henry Smith, Barnden Rudolph, and Justyn Hartley.
The secondary has returning experience. Jamar Moultrie and Jeremy Cook have talent. Donell Williams will be the other corner with Moultrie, while free safety Steele Lowery and star Kasey Zylstra will start. Look for senior Braydon Gerstenberg to see action along with Tre Darden.
"We were consistently tough on the defensive side of the ball last year, and that is what we are trying to get our new players to see," added Waldrop. "We had great effort and toughness. Our young guys will need to grow up. Our coaches did a great job of growing them up. The lights are coming on for some of these guys. We have worked very hard. Every week, we will see good teams that will help us make the necessary changes, so we look forward to some great competition."