There is clear favorite to claim this year’s Mr. Football Award in the state of Alabama, but there are a lot of other contenders as well.
Hueytown quarterback Earl Woods, the Class 6A Back of the Year in 2021 and the Mr. Football runner-up, returns to try to lead the Golden Gophers back to the 6A title game.
Woods accounted for 59 touchdowns for Hueytown a year ago. A similar season could garner him the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s top football award in 2022.
Here is a look at Woods and a few of the other possible Mr. Football contenders this season:
Ethan Crawford, Sr., Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa
The Southern Miss commit led Hillcrest to the Class 6A semifinals a year ago. He passed for more than 2,200 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed 735 yards and 17 more scores. He was a second-team All-State selection.
Josh Flowers, Jr., Baker
Flowers, who picked up an Alabama offer this summer, emerged as a star during his sophomore season. The Class 7A Honorable Mention All-State selection completed 108-of-159 pass attempts for 1,992 yards and 20 TDs. He was only intercepted twice. He also rushed for 859 yards and 12 TDs on 115 carries. He was the AL.com Coastal Alabama Newcomer of the Year.
Rayshawn Hardy, Sr., Bob Jones
Hardy ran for 1,562 yards and 27 touchdowns as a junior while averaging 7.5 yards per carry. He passed for 1,682 yards and 12 TDs and was named Class 7A first-team All-State at athlete.
Jack Hayes, Sr., Piedmont
Hayes has been one of the most decorated athletes in the state during his high school career. AL.com’s overall Male Athlete of the Year for the 2021-2022 school year was named Class 3A Back of the Year in football and Player of the Year in baseball by the Alabama Sports Writers Association as a junior. He led Piedmont to the Class 3A football title, completing 160-of-258 passes for 2,673 yards and 38 TDs. He was intercepted just twice. He also rushed for 1,027 yards and 21 TDs on 210 carries. He ran for 2 TDs and passed for 3 in the title game.
Gio Lopez, Sr., James Clemens
A South Alabama commit, Lopez was a first-team Class 7A selection as an athlete. As a junior, he completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 2,387 yards and 22 touchdowns against only two interceptions. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry and scored seven rushing TDs.
Christopher Vizzina, Sr., Briarwood Christian
The Clemson commit is the top-ranked quarterback in Alabama’s 2023 class. He passed for 2,247 yards and 18 TDs as a junior and ran for 649 yards and 16 more scores. He was an honorable mention Class 6A All-State selection.
Earl Woods, Sr., Hueytown
The reigning Gatorade state Player of the Year led Hueytown to the Class 6A title game before falling to Clay-Chalkville. The dual-threat quarterback accounted for an incredible 59 touchdowns, passing for 27 and running for 32 more, and 4,510 total yards. He was 131-of-235 passing for 2,641 yards, adding 1,869 yards on 254 runs. He was AL.com’s Birmingham Player of the Year.
Cole Blaylock, Sr., UMS-Wright
A first-team Class 5A All-State selection, Blaylock rushed for 1,398 yards and 19 touchdowns on 241 carries – an average of 5.80 yards per carry. He also caught 12 passes for 106 yards, returned 17 kicks for 511 yards and a TD and returned 29 punts for 406 yards. His team enters the season ranked No. 1 in 5A.
Jeremiah Cobb, Sr., Montgomery Catholic
The Auburn commit is the top-ranked running back in the state for 2023. As a junior a year ago, Cobb rushed for 2,163 yards and 22 touchdowns on 195 carries for Catholic – an average of 11.1 yards per carry. He also caught 24 passes for 561 yards and 8 TDs.
Khalifa Keith, Sr., Parker
Keith rushed for 1,877 yards and 28 touchdowns on 190 carries a year ago. He was a second-team Class 5A All-state selection. He is committed to Kentucky.
Drew Pickett, Sr., Russell County
The Wake Forest commit rushed for 835 yards on 146 carries as a junior and caught 16 passes for 163 yards after transferring from Holtville. He finished with 8 total touchdowns in just nine games. He is the second-ranked senior running back in the state behind Cobb.
Anthony Rogers, Soph., Pike Road
Rogers had a sensational freshman season in helping Pike Road to the Class 5A state title. He finished with 2,171 all-purpose yards and 30 touchdowns. With last year’s backfield mate, Quinshon Judkins, now at Ole Miss, Rogers will have much of the spotlight to himself under new coach Ed Rigby.
Mario Craver, Jr., Clay-Chalkville
The 2024 Under Armour All-American is one of a two-headed receiving threat at Clay-Chalkville along with Alabama commit Jaylen Mbakwe. If transfer QB Kamari McClellan fits into the offense as well as expected, all three could put up big numbers for Drew Gilmer’s team. In the 6A title game win over Hueytown, Craver caught 6 passes for 126 yards and a TD.
Karmello English, Sr., Central-Phenix City
The state’s top-ranked senior wide receiver committed to Auburn earlier this summer. English caught 70 passes for 1,059 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior in helping the Red Devils to the Class 7A state championship game.
Jaylen Mbakwe, Jr., Clay-Chalkville
The top-ranked junior in the state committed to Alabama earlier this summer. He averaged 17 yards per reception a year ago and also was a consistent threat on kickoff and punt returns.
James Smith, DT, Carver-Montgomery
Smith is one of the few top 2023 recruits in the state who has not committed. He missed most of last season after transferring to IMG Academy and then returning to Carver but can dominate on the line. The 247 composite rankings list him as the No. 1 senior in the state.
Peter Woods, Sr., Thompson
Woods surprised the state this summer by committing to Clemson over Alabama. The Mr. Football Award hasn’t been won by a predominantly defensive player since Blount’s DeMarco McNeil in 1998. Could one of these players change that trend? Woods finished his junior year with 92 tackles, 26 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks and 30 quarterback hurries. With defensive front teammate Jeremiah Alexander now at Alabama, Woods’ numbers could go even higher this year.
Tomarrion Parker, DL, Central-Phenix City
Parker, who decommitted from Penn State on Tuesday, helped the Red Devils to the Class 7A title game a year ago. He finished the 2021 season with 75 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 15 sacks. He was a first-team Class 7A All-State selection. He’ll have several big stages to prove himself this year, including an ESPNU game against IMG Academy on Sept. 23.
MORE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COVERAGE