Tatum returns only 5 of 22 starters from last year's 9-3 team, but as always, the Eagles are ready to usher in new athletes all over the field.

Despite all of the losses to graduation, ETSN.fm still believes veteran coach Andy Evans' Eagles are the favorites in the highly competitive District 9-2A Division I, one of the state's most tightly contested districts. In 2012, three teams finished 4-1, leaving a 7-3 Jefferson team out of the playoffs.

One thing is certain: Tatum should be good in the front seven.

Senior defensive linemen Keaton Blanton and Collin Gage (64 tackles) join junior linebacker Kyshaun Smith (80 tackles) to give Tatum quality experience in the box. Each gained valuable playing time last season, when the Eagles held opponents to 21.2 points per game. Junior linebacker/defensive back Devon Boyd could also be an impact player after making 60 tackles as a sophomore.

Offensively, Tatum must replace quarterback Darian Brooks and tailback Shaq Johnson among the nine graduated starters. One name to watch is sophomore J.D. Taylor, who will likely take the quarterback duties. His top target could be the big and athletic Deyanta Roberson, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound speedster at wideout. Demetrius Hill and Jaylen Shans will likely take the ball-carrying duties.

Tatum opens 9-2A D-I play against White Oak before traveling to Troup, which beat the Eagles 14-10 last season and has a bevy of proven playmakers back. A Nov. 1 game in Jefferson won't be easy for the Eagles, who finish their regular season at home against Harmony.

All of those games will be pivotal in the district championship race.

ETSN.fm 2013 Preseason Class 2A Poll