COVINGTON - Alcovy football coach Kirk Hoffmann can finally say that his team has something it's lacked in the past - experience.
"This year we have seniors that have been in the program now for three years. That will hopefully give us the experience and leadership to improve on our record this year," Hoffmann said. "I believe that games that are won in the fourth quarter are usually because of senior leadership and experience."
Some of the key experienced players are running back Malachi Outlaw, defensive back and backup quarterback Rod Tolen, and linebackers Bryan Daniels and Gary Wilkins.
While the Tigers finally have experience they can count on, the one thing that could hurt them as the season progresses is their lack of depth, especially at linebacker.
When the opposing team has the ball, the Tigers are going to line up in a defensive scheme that will allow Alcovy to use its biggest strength, the defensive line, to counter its lack of depth at linebacker.
Another key returning player is defensive end Matt Gunnells.
"Some of the new players on this side of the ball will bring speed to the defense," Hoffmann said. "They are Lucky Collymore, Jamel Toney, Zack Davis, and Jakadei Ridley."
One of Tigers' key losses on defense from last year was defensive end Kevin Yates. Hoping to replace Yates will be Ellis Brown and Xavier Green.
Even though Alcovy's workhorse in the backfield, Outlaw, will be back for his senior year, the loss of quarterback Ryan Ledford and receivers Eric Strozier and Cody Edwards could pose a problem for the offense.
Until a bona fide receiver steps up, the receiver responsibilities will be by committee. Vying for the wideout positions are Josh Taylor, Kenneth Stokes, Kevin Boyles, Gary Wilkins, Cameron Fields and Kejuan Frazier.
"We will be running the same offense as last year, a four-wide," he said. "It gives us the ability to spread the field and get the ball into the hands of our playmakers."
Battling to become Alcovy's quarterback are PJ Thompkins, David Ward and Tolen.
Helping solidify the offensive line for the Tigers are returners Brown and Maurice Valentine.
"There are some new players that will bring some experience to the offense. They are good athletes that can make things happen," Hoffmann said.
A couple of the new players are Tre Sorrells and Devon Edwards.
"We have worked hard on special teams. Kyle Vojtesak will handle all the kicking duties. He has worked hard over the summer, attending many camps," Hoffmann said. "The return job will be handled by Rod Tolen, Nick Wilson, Malachi Outlaw, and Darrius Baker."
Another big change facing the Tigers this season will be a new region. Even though Alcovy will remain in Class AAAA, they are being moved from Region 8-AAAA to Region 4-AAAA.
"I'm excited about moving to the new region. The region we are going to is a region where each and every team has outstanding speed. Griffin has been the team year in and year out that seems to be successful," Hoffmann said.
Also in the region are Dutchtown, Ola, Stockbridge, Forest Park, Jonesboro and Mt. Zion-Jonesboro.
While it is every team's aspiration to make it to the playoffs, the Tigers are keeping their team goals a bit more simple. They want to play hard and play fast.
"We had a great offseason. The athletes worked hard getting stronger and quicker," Hoffmann said. "We changed our summer workout program, hoping to get a little quicker."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: At a glance
Team: Alcovy football
Coach: Kirk Hoffmann (third season)
Last year's record: 2-8
Key returning players: Malachi Outlaw (RB), Maurice Valentine (OL), Julian Gardner (OL), Davey Jones(OL), Ellis Brown (OL) Matt Gunnells (DL), Bryan Daniels (LB), Rod Tolen (DB), Gary Wilkins (OLB)
First game: Aug. 29 vs. Newton at Homer Sharp Stadium, 7:30 p.m.