Prolific passer impressed

Like most football fans in the state, I had heard the talk about Hoover High School and its prolific passer. So when the Bucs visited Tuscaloosa County High School last weekend I stopped by to take a look.

Not surprisingly I saw an excellent 6A football team at the height of its power. Hoover has the best of everything Alabama has to offer in the way of educational and community resources, and it showed on the sideline and in the stands. I think it took the Hoover squad almost five minutes to file through the gate onto the field. While many schools struggle to field enough players for both offense and defense, the mighty Bucs have bodies to spare.

Besides the athletes, it looked like every male member of the faculty was fitted out in a coach's polo shirt and arrayed along the sideline. In the stands the Hoover section was packed with orange-clad supporters, not to mention the large, well-equipped band.

Tuscaloosa County High School is no slouch itself. But under the direction of Coach Rush Propst, Hoover has built itself into a showcase high school program.

Warming up before the game, Wilson displays good form, if not ideal height.

Spotting No. 14, John Parker Wilson, warming up on the field. I snapped a few pictures and then settled in to see what the excitement was all about. Sixty minutes (and 57 Hoover points) later, a solid County team--not without talent of its own--had been crushed. And much of the destruction came via the arm of Wilson.

430 yards on 19-of-27 passing was impressive enough, but Wilson's seven touchdown passes put him in elite company, tying Brodie Croyle among others for the state record. Wilson had seven completions travel more than 20 yards and three for 50-yards-plus.

Right about now Tide fans are demanding "Sign him up!" and Wilson and his friends would agree. However, while Wilson's recent outing definitely raised his recruiting stock, edging him closer to a scholarship offer by Bama, it hasn't happened yet.

Many claim that Wilson is simply a product of the excellent Hoover offensive system, and no doubt he benefits from very good coaching and talented teammates. But Chad Jackson is catching footballs at Florida now. In his absence, Hoover's wideouts are pretty good at best. But Wilson's TD passes continue.

He has a good, if not great throwing arm--not as strong as an Andrew Zow but with more zip than a Tyler Watts. Of course if Wilson had Watts' size, the debate would already be finished. Wilson is tall enough, but does not possess prototype size. His recruiting profile lists him at 6-1, which probably represents no more than an inch of generosity. Of course some of the best college quarterbacks in SEC history (Eric Zeier, Pat Sullivan, etc.) haven't topped the 6-1 mark.

Worthy of note, Wilson's father is currently a few inches taller than his son, so John Parker may not be finished growing yet.

Wilson can run if needed. He's solidly built for a high school quarterback, and his prowess on the baseball diamond proves he's a good athlete. But make no mistake, Wilson is a pocket passer all the way.

After falling behind 10-3 in the first quarter to a game Tuscaloosa County squad, Hoover essentially blitzed TCHS out of the ball game. Wilson's numbers came in only three quarters of play.

I was impressed by several Wilson traits.

  • He throws a very accurate deep ball, often hitting his man in stride--always giving the receiver a chance to run under the ball.
  • For a high school athlete, he demonstrates very good field awareness and vision. Wilson is capable of scrambling, but he knows his role on the team. When pressured, he buys time by either moving in the pocket or rolling out. And he's always looking down field. More than one touchdown pass Friday came when Wilson came off his primary receiver and delivered the ball to his second or third option.
  • And Wilson shows remarkable accuracy for a prep QB. Besides throwaways to avoid a sack, I can only recall one off-target pass. Under pressure, Wilson threw too high (but on line) for an incompletion.

For his efforts Friday night, Wilson was named the Birmingham News Player of the Week. Wilson also leads the state in passing for the season. He's 117-of-160 passing for more than 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Wilson (#14) rests on the bench between offensive series.

The bottom line is that John Parker Wilson is very good at what he does. He's clearly a winner, as his record as a starter (something like 50-2 with two state championships) proves.

But will Bama offer? At this point the Tide has not, but that could change.

One thing that many fans don't understand is that college recruiters are infinitely more concerned with how an athlete projects on the college level than with what he does in a high school game.

For example Wilson's teammate, defensive end Jeramie Holifield, is long and lanky--more than a tad on the thin side--which makes him vulnerable to shorter, more muscled blockers. In fact Holifield was often standing on the sideline on running downs, replaced in the Hoover defensive lineup by a 5-10, fireplug of a lineman.

Yet the 6-5 (or so) Holifield has a firm scholarship offer from Alabama, while Wilson does not. At least not yet.

But stay tuned.

RECRUITING NOTE: Wilson claims scholarship offers from Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech and MTSU. He has also been offered a grant to play baseball at Alabama, but baseball aid almost never equals a full ride.

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