Gilmer has been in this position several times before.

Two NCAA Division I FBS prospects have graduated from last season's state semifinalist team and now belong to the college game. But losses like those have not hindered the Buckeyes much in recent seasons.

Head coach Matt Turner's squad will begin the season ranked second in our Class 4A poll. It's the final ranked team from District 7-4A Division II and is in front of seventh-ranked Gladewater and 10th-ranked Pleasant Grove.

Gilmer has done no worse than the state semifinals the past three seasons. That streak just might continue with 11 players back from the most recent run.

This will be an explosive team.

Quarterback Aaron "Poppy" Brown hit the 5,000-yard mark last season while receiver Red Jones surpassed 1,000 yards with his final catch of 2016. Qua Heath added another 765 yards.

All three players are returning and should be able to continue on without new Oklahoma State player LaMarcus Morton.

Five players return to a defense that held all 15 opponents faced to an average of 28.6 points per game.

In addition to belonging to arguably the best 4A Division II district in the state, the Buckeyes also faced a Carthage squad that ultimately won the 4A Division I state title. Carthage skewed the average with a 55-point performance, which ended Gilmer's regular season unbeaten streak dating back to 2013.

The Buckeyes will miss new Louisiana Tech defensive back Kollin Hurt, but Heath will be affiliated with the secondary for a second season and was just one interception off Hurt's team-leading three.

Gilmer's front seven is relatively intact albeit missing its most productive linebacker.

The program will have plenty of opportunities to become the top-ranked East Texas 4A team. In addition to two games against district opponents currently ranked, has a season-opening date against No. 5 Liberty-Eylau and will venture into Class 5A to face Nacogdoches.

Maybe the Buckeyes will face our top-ranked 4A team as well.

ETSN.fm Class 4A Preseason Poll