Football season is oh-so-close to kickoff, so in the meantime we’re left to feed the preseason hype machine. On Tuesday, we previewed Class AA’s top five teams to watch. Here, we’ll take a look at the top five players to watch in AA. Notably absent is a would-be shoo-in — Chad Mascoe, formerly of Thomasville. The class of ‘22 four-star, rated the No.1 pro-style quarterback in his class by 247 Sports, transferred to national powerhouse IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) in the offseason.
With a league as deep in talent as Class AA, it’s impossible to narrow the list to just five players, so this is far from complete, and other AA players will emerge to earn statewide recognition. Feel free to leave your picks for those to keep an eye on in the comments section. For the AJC’s Class AA preseason all-state team, go here.
Tank Bigsby, running back
6-foot-0, 210 pounds
Notes: Bigsby is on the national radar and is a possible AJC Super 11 selection who should be a mainstay in the AJC Player of the Year watch. Rated as a four-star and the No. 35 overall player in the country according to the 247 Sports composite, he holds more than 30 offers however, last Friday he committed to Auburn. There, he’ll team up with his former lead blocker at Callaway, Keiondre Jones, who is now a freshman with the Tigers. This season, Bigsby leads a team loaded with D-I talent, including another Auburn commit lineman, Tate Johnson, and they are primed for title contention after reaching the semifinals last year.
Amarius Mims, offensive tackle
6-foot-8, 315 pounds
Notes: Mims is the only AA recruit rated as a five-star by recruiting services, and 247 Sports has him as the No. 14 overall player in the country for the class of ‘21. With elite size and talent, he holds offers from Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida and Florida State among others in a list that is sure to grow from its current number of eight. He will anchor the line for a Royals team that finished 4-6 last year and hopes to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Mims will be blocking for a running-back-by-committee of PJ Taylor, Arkenzio Hayes and Ty Williams, and will protect quarterback Dominic Sasser in the passing game.
Zavier Carter, linebacker
6-foot-4, 190 pounds
Notes: Carter will serve as a main cog on a Hornets defense known for its shutdown capabilities, having posted six shutouts while surrendering an average of 3.8 points in the regular season in 2018. For his part, Carter had seven sacks and 36 solo tackles. A four-star recruit, Carter is ranked the No. 89 overall player and No. 5 outside linebacker by 247 Sports for the class of ‘21 and holds 12 offers, including Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami, Michigan and Notre Dame.
Jaquez Smith, receiver
6-foot-1, 190 pounds
Notes: Given the Hornets’ stout defense, they’re primarily a running team. However, that hasn’t stopped Smith from being noticed on the recruiting trail as one of the country’s stop receivers. He’s coming off a season in which he had 28 catches for 575 yards. Like his teammate Zavier Carter, Smith too is a four-star for the ‘21 class. He holds 12 offers, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Notre Dame.
Gunner Stockton, quarterback
Notes: The only sophomore on this list, Stockton had a stellar freshman season in Rabun County’s signature fast-paced, spread offense that’s designed for its quarterback to put up monster numbers. He lived up to the billing, completing 190 of his 291 passes — a 65.2 completion percentage — for 35 touchdowns to seven interceptions while rushing 105 times for 709 yards and 17 touchdowns. It’s hard to imagine improving on those numbers, but if he does, and if he continues that progression through his high school career, he has a shot at breaking a few state records. 247 Sports has him ranked as the class of ‘22’s top-ranked dual threat quarterback in the country and the No. 2 player overall. He holds eight offers, including Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Penn State and West Virginia.
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