In defensive backs Joel Caldwell and Jahi Word-Daniels, Coach Rush Propst's two-time 6A defending state champions return a pair of prospects who possess both the speed and playmaking ability to advance to the next level. Besides being teammates in the Bucs' backfield, the two are have been close friends since they started playing together as freshmen.
The offers have already begun to start coming in for the 5-11, 160 Word-Daniels-- Vanderbilt, Duke, Louisville and Georgia Tech have already extended scholarship offers. The 6-1, 175-pound Caldwell, who happens to be the younger brother of Vanderbilt's Jason Caldwell, is still waiting for his first offer-- but that too could be changing soon.
As the free safety for Hoover's stifling defense, Caldwell can boast no staggering statistics (just one interception in 2003). In a Hoover defense that was strong up front and seldom gave up the big play, Caldwell played free safety and was the last man opponents had to beat. He went long periods without having to show his skills.
Yet with legitimate 4.42 speed in the 40-yard dash, Caldwell also anchored Hoover's 4x400 relay team that recently qualified for the state 6A track meet and finished eighth. It's that blazing speed that has kept college recruiters coming by the Hoover campus this spring.
In a footrace between Caldwell and his teammate Word-Daniels, who would win?
"I would," laughs Caldwell confidently. Would he also be able to outrun his brother Jason, a fourth-year junior at Vanderbilt this fall? "No, he'd probably barely beat me by a little bit. But it would be close."
Caldwell will be doing a lot of racing around this summer-- from football camp to football camp around the South.
"Right now Vanderbilt, Clemson and Southern Miss are looking at me," he said. "Vanderbilt has been recruiting me pretty strong. They want me to come to their camp, and I should be going there June 13.
"I'm going to Alabama's as well June 19, Southern Miss's camp July 17, and I'm also going to Georgia Tech's on July 10."
Does any particular school have the edge at this moment?
"I like Vanderbilt academically very much, as well as athletically, because they said I have a good chance to come in and play early.
"I like Alabama, because I've pretty much been an Alabama fan most of my life. My parents both attended Alabama, and I just like the great football legacy they have.
"Southern Miss… my uncle went there, and he suggested that as a good school to go to. They have a good athletic program too. They had a good year this year.
"I like Georgia Tech because they're very good academically, and they have a great football program as well."
All of the schools recruiting him are pretty much even right now, Caldwell says, but the summer camps should help him narrow his choices. He hopes to make an early decision, no later than midway through football season. Having a brother who attends Vanderbilt won't sway his choice, he says.
"Ill be looking for the best education for me, and where I'm most likely to get to play early. Those are the two main factors."
Hoover begins summer training next week, and winning a third straight championship is top priority. Caldwell will again stick to the defensive side in 2004 for the talent-laden Bucs.
"The number one goal this year is to win state again," says Caldwell. "I want my team to win, and I want to have an outstanding season."