FNL: Bob Jones at Hoover

HOOVER, Ala.-The Hoover Bucs of coach Josh Niblett don't lose often, and almost never lose two games in a row. When they fell to Mountain Brook last Friday night, it didn't bode well for 9-0 Bob Jones as the Patriots prepared to come south from Madison, Ala. That, in a nutshell, explains Hoover 41, Bob Jones 13 in a playoff tune-up for both teams.

The Bucs don't know at this writing who they will host, and the Pats will prepare for Tuscaloosa County in round one.

To the categories:

Top prospect

Perhaps on this night I should say "Top Senior Prospect," as my player of the game all three times I've seen Hoover this year is a sophomore, but more on him later. The main reason I chose this game was to see Alabama pledge and Bob Jones linebacker Reggie Ragland, a 6-3, 245-pounder.

I was expecting to see some evidence of all the Rolando McClain comparisons. Instead, I saw a guy make seven tackles, hurry the quarterback once, and drop the only pass thrown him when he came in on offense thanks to a jarring hit by that sophomore I'll be touting down the page a bit.

I admittedly did not see a dominant player, but one with the build, quick feet, instincts and smarts to become one down the road, once he gets in an SEC off-season program and under the tutelage of SEC coaches in Tuscaloosa. And, to be fair, Ragland's high school coach says he's a better player now than he was a year ago due to his work ethic.

"He's in a lot better shape," Rose said. "He really took his off-season conditioning seriously. He dropped about 20 pounds, and he's been much better on defense. More sacks, more tackles for loss, just making plays like a future SEC player should."

And, also to be fair, the Bucs know Ragland is a future SEC player and chose to run away from him a good bit. They know, "He's a good player. He's a big kid, an athletic kid, and he's got speed," said Bucs coach Josh Niblett, who played in the SEC for Gene Stallings and knows talent.

"You've got to know where (Ragland's) at, because he's a big part of their defense," he added.

Seniors who shine

For three years now, FNL has been writing about Hoover running back/receiver/kick returner Caleb Sims. Now, we have received word that the 5-10, 174-pounder has been invited to walk on at Alabama. No decision has been made, but if Sims does head west on I 20/59, the Tide will get a quality player. On this night, Sims caught nine balls for 90 yards.

Said Rose, "Oh, he's a winner. I'd like to have him. He's just a really good football player. He's smart. He's heady. He's athletic. He really sees the field well. He's just a winner in every way, shape, form or fashion."

For the Pats, quarterback Jeffery Moss is elusive at 6-4, 180. He can scramble, and has a fairly accurate arm. He will play somewhere at the next level.

Juniors to watch

Every time I watch Hoover, safety Devon Earl makes plays. He's 5-11, 175 and is good both in deep coverage and on run support. He's probably Hoover's only 2013 D-1 guy.

For the Pats, if you want to talk meat on the hoof for an offensive tackle, look no further than big No. 79. Chris Shelton is listed 6-6, 290, is every bit of it, and is a good right tackle.

Super sophs

I continue to be amazed by Marlon Humphrey of Hoover, equally dangerous at corner or returning kicks. On this night, he brought a kick-off back 96 yards to break open a close game. He was not done. He later came up and met Ragland the same time the ball got there when Ragland was making a cameo at slot receiver. Suffice it to say Humphrey lit Ragland up, and the ball fell harmlessly to the turf.

"He's a special player, and he's going to put himself in position athletically to make some plays," Niblett said. "He knows now if he comes out every day (at practice) and works hard, the sky's the limit for him."

Humphrey, whose dad Bobby played at Bama, will be on hand for next weekend's Tide/LSU game. He's hearing early from Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State.

For the Pats, the receiver who gave Humphrey the most problems was fellow soph Ryan Crooks. He's not the biggest guy at 5-7, 160, and beat Humphrey deep on a halfback pass. Crooks looks like a future Marquis Maze-type guy.

Crimson connection

Joining those of us who walk the sidelines tonight were Alabama freshmen basketball players Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper. Randolph is a Bob Jones grad whose younger brother Roderick (6-1, 185) is another soph receiver to watch, though he's a backup for now. With Madison about to get a new school called James Clemens High, it will be interesting to see how the younger players like Randolph and Crooks are zoned. I'm told the school colors will are Carolina Blue and Navy Blue.

Saban sighting

Not at this game, but a few miles away at Hueytown, Andrew Bone's sources reported Nick Saban in the stadium to watch star Jameis Winston, a quarterback committed to FSU but rumored to be on the verge of re-opening his recruitment, whether he says so publicly.

How 'bout that 'Q'

There seems to be a new BBQ joint opening in Hoover about every other month. The latest calls itself Southern Legacy BBQ & Brew. The pulled pork is pretty good, but the baked beans and slaw are so bland they take your mind off the pork. Not so in the case of the folks at The Wynfrey Hotel who catered today's SEC Basketball Media Days. Their baked beans were molasses-laced, as all should be, and the potato salad was made with freshly-cut spuds. The banana pudding was a bonus.

Up next

With word of another invited walk-on who plays in the city of Tuscaloosa, it may be time to check out an American Christian home playoff game and chat with former Tider John Causey, who has his group of Pats on quite a roll.

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