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August 6, 2010

No. 8 Hoover wins more than games

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

RivalsHigh.com has begun its 2010 countdown, ranking the teams from No. 1 through No. 100.

We started at No. 100 on July 26 and will release two groups of five teams per day. Then, we'll do a daily countdown from No. 10 to No. 1. Our top team will be unveiled on Monday - two weeks from the start of the season.

After that, we will wait until Sept. 1 for the next rankings, then have them every Monday during the season.

The team rankings were compiled by high school sports senior analyst Dallas Jackson, the Rivals AMP team, football recruiting analysts and the entire RivalsHigh network of publishers.

In case you missed it: Previous ranking groups | Post your thoughts about the rankings

Top 100 countdown
No. 8 Hoover, Alabama
COACH: Josh Niblett
LAST SEASON: 14-1, Alabama Class 6A State Champs
FINAL 2009 RANKING: No. 13 in RivalsHigh 100

Hoover (Ala.) High football players should know that their coach doesn't think the state title is the most important thing at stake this season.

Or any season.

"You know, in 10 years, that state title will just be a memory," Josh Niblett said. "What is much more important is helping these kids grow into good men, good husbands, and good fathers. Knowing that there are consequences to our actions and that it takes hard work to be successful are lessons that they can learn from playing football. But those are the things that are more important to me."

Part of that message is appearance - an area where Niblett is all business with his team, which begins the season ranked No. 8 in the nation in the RivalsHigh 100.

"No earrings, no baggy pants, none of that stuff," he said. "Doing the little things are important. I wake up each morning and spend some quiet time with God. I pray for the wisdom to make these boys better people. If we end up winning football games along the way, well then, that is an amazing side effect."

Niblett, who stepped into a curiously difficult situation in the wake of Rush Propst being asked to leave the team, molds his approach from the time he played under Gene Stallings.

"Look, whether you view the glass as half-full or half-empty doesn't matter, it isn't full," Niblett said. "We are going to train the hardest we can to make sure we are a full-glass team."

This year's Buccaneers return six starters on offense, six on defense, and their kicker and punter.

It should be a good year, by most accounts.

Hoover is often the target in Alabama. Hardly ever playing the role of hunter is a position they relish.

"It is big for this community," Niblett said. "We know in Alabama there is a target on our backs. We work to keep it that way."

The work is evidenced in one of the fastest-rising prospects in high school football, Jaylon Denson.

Denson, a recent Auburn commit and player in consideration for a major boost in the national Rivals.com rankings, had to wait his turn at Hoover.

His junior season, he had to move inside to tight end and watch Maudrecus Humphrey (Arkansas) and Josh Magee (Southern Miss) take the snaps with the first team offense at wide receiver.

Denson got injured and was largely ignored by the recruiting world - until he got serious about working at getting better, that is.

"Jaylon wasn't the player last year that he is now," Niblett said. "He is one of our hardest working guys on the team."

But he isn't the only one.

Denson, Teyrence Glaze, Blake Burks, Max Elliott, Tyler Roberts and Ryan Carter are all players on the Hoover roster who will likely end up at Division I schools that have had to work hard and pay their dues.

"Sometimes you have to wait your turn," Niblett said about this year's team. "Hoover is usually a place for seniors. It is this group's turn now."

The group in 2010 has very high expectations. Not since the days of MTV's "Two-A-Days" has there been this much focus or expectations placed on the team.

Expectations, Niblett says, the team needs to block out.

"We want our tough guys to get tougher, our fast guys to get faster," he said. "That is what we have to work on in the offseason. Not getting ranked higher. We truly appreciate the exposure and the recognition we get, but we need to make every effort to get better and earn it too."

This Hoover team will have an opportunity to earn it early as the team's first game of the season is a road trip to Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes to take on the RivalsHigh 100 No. 25-ranked team.

"That Byrnes game is something our community has told me they wanted since the first day I took the job," Hoover athletic director Myra Miles said. "We are very happy to take on a program like Byrnes and hope to perform well and show everyone what Hoover football is all about."

The game will go a long way toward determining Hoover's place among high school's elite in 2010, but will not go anywhere toward the ultimate goal of Niblett.

"If we lose that game, it is OK," he said. "Sometimes you need to try losing so you can appreciate those wins a little more. I don't care if we win 7-6 or lose 42-7. I will still be proud of them, still love them."

That attitude is being met with open arms in Hoover.

But they still want to win.

"We just need to make sure the name on the front of our jerseys means more to us than it does to the opponents," Niblett said. "If we work harder to uphold that name than they do to knock it down, we will be fine."

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