CORRECTION: This story was updated at 12:51 p.m. on Saturday, July 24, 2021, to correct the spelling of Kye Songer's name.
With the start of the 2021 prep football season now just a month away, Chattanooga area programs are hitting the stretch run of the preseason camp circuit.
By now coaches have a great idea of what their team's strengths and weaknesses are — and so do we. This week sports editor Stephen Hargis and staff writer Lindsey Young will analyze some of the most notable positional groups in the area and what makes them stand out.
Linebackers are featured today, a group that has to be able to run, tackle and cover while also diagnosing plays on the fly. Most of today's defenses are designed to allow linebackers the freedom to make plays — something offensive coordinators also know and game plan for. The following units should be among the best in ruining those plans:
The Red Raiders line was also listed among the area's best, which should say plenty about expectations for the defensive unit as a whole. Outside linebacker Trey McDonald (6-4, 225) has already committed to Virginia, while middle 'backer Decorian Jones-Montgomery — a starter since his sophomore season — has offers from Eastern Kentucky among others. McDonald, who made 24 solo tackles last season, is athletic enough to also play receiver on offense.
Those two, along with the likes of junior Caleb Hampton, who will also see action at running back, along with Kye Songer and Ethan Wright — who missed time last season with injuries — should give Baylor a solid second wave of defenders behind a line that should be among the stingiest in the area and help the team make a deeper playoff push than last year's quarterfinal run.
When head coach Jeff Poston talks about his 2021 linebacking corps there is a noticeable excitement in his tone, and for good reason. The Wolverines are getting a lot of preseason notice as a team that might be among the most improved in the northwest Georgia area and Dade's three-man linebacking unit is a big reason.
Poston, also the school's successful wrestling coach, will lean heavily on two of his grapplers to lead the unit. Defending GHSA Class AA 182-pound champion Cody Williams and brother Landon, who placed third in this past season's 195-pound class, are the outside 'backers, with former noseguard Xander Lynch in the middle.
Cody Williams is up to 200 pounds and at 6-1 has the size, strength (305-pound bench, 460 squat, 260 power clean) and speed (4.7) to wreck an offensive game plan. "Cody is an incredibly competitive kid who refuses to lose," Poston said of his senior, who had 110 tackles in nine games a year ago.
The Dade defense fell off dramatically a year ago when Landon Williams went out with an ankle injury in a game seven win over Chattooga. According to Poston he's back and has dominated in spring and summer camps.
The Lions are "Locked and loaded" at linebacker this year. Three-man starting unit is headed by all-star Solomon Locke, a three-year starter who had over 100 tackles from his strongside linebacking spot. The 6-foot, 195-pounder, who is also a 1,000-yard rusher, is getting college recruiting looks on both sides of the ball.
His brother, sophomore Jeffson Locke, will man the middle spot and brings elite size (6-4, 230) and athleticism to the position.
"Jeffson has a chance to be a dominant player for us over the next three years," head coach Jay Poag said. "He can be one of the better ones to come of here if he stays healthy He has all the tools to be a great one."
Junior Eli Thomason (5-9, 190) will be the weakside 'backer and will use his speed to blitz while also being able to cover running backs in the flat. Those three will also start on offense, which will provide a pair of talented freshmen, Jaylon Gay and Sam Wooten, plenty of playing time.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.