The last two state runners-up in Class 6A have replaced their successful outgoing coaches. One brought in another proven winner from outside, the other looked within their own staff.

2016 Class 6A state finalist Opelika has hired McGill-Toolen head coach Caleb Ross, who led the Yellow Jackets to a Class 7A state title in 2015 and a runner-up finish in 2016. Ross is a Prattville native and served as head coach at Thompson in 2011 along with his stint in Mobile. His Jackets went a combined 30-8 in three seasons but were 26-2 in the last two years. Former Opelika coach Brian Blackmon left to take an analyst job at Auburn University.

For 2014 6A state champion and 2015 runner-up Clay-Chalkville, the Cougars turned to assistant Drew Gilmer to replace the retired Jerry Hood. Gilmer has served on Hood’s staff the last seven years with the last five coaching the linebackers, special teams, and strength & conditioning. He coached cornerbacks and wide receivers in the first two years. Gilmer had also worked at Pinson Valley, his alma mater, as a quarterbacks coach before heading to Clay. Gilmer has no prior head coaching experience.

It’s also being reported that Clay-Chalkville offensive coordinator Stuart Floyd has hinted that he may be looking elsewhere to coach after the hire. Floyd was the quarterback on the 1999 Class 6A state championship team and has been the OC for the past seven years.