HOOVER, Ala. - With four players in the secondary likely going to play Division I football, the best quarterback the team has had in recent memory and a new offensively-minded head coach, this could be a special season at Hoover (Ala.) Spain Park.
"Our job is to get the focus onto a different offensive dynamic," head coach Chip Lindsey said. "We are going to be different from who they were."
Lindsey has been a fast riser in the coaching ranks. His time at Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter was highlighted with his quarterback Hutson Mason breaking most every in-state passing record.
He then moved from the high school ranks into college, spending last season at Troy as a quarterbacks coach. Now, a year later, he is back heading a high school program.
"The kids are resilient to change," he said. "But they want to know that their new coach has been somewhere and done something. That, I think, gives me a little bit of leeway with them but that can be lost quickly if we don't have the results."
The results on the recruiting front have taken off:
All of that goes without mentioning the quarterback, Nick Mullens, who Lindsey said could be better than his former signal caller.
"We have a special group here," he said. "It has made my job a lot easier, but we play in a very tough region and will have to earn it on the field, not on paper."
Being back in high school was part of the plan for Lindsey, but he admits it was a little earlier than expected.
"I figured I would stay in college for three or four years," he said. "But for once in my life, I feel like I didn't make a selfish decision. My wife has a very good job now and I get to see my kids growing up. It feels good. And I think this is a great place to be long term."
HOOVER HOPES STILL HIGH
Not one to share headlines, Hoover (Ala.) High is ready to enter its 2011 season ranked in the preseason RivalsHigh 100.
But after a difficult 7-6 loss in the state final - which pushed the team outside of the Top 10 of the final national poll - the Buccaneers are ready to put the previous season behind them.
"We have been out working hard," head coach Josh Niblett said. "I think we have a good team that is working to get better and that is what you ask of the kids."
"Sam may be our most athletic boy on the team," Niblett said.
Gillikin will slide to the quarterback position to replace Ryan Carter.
His go-to player will be Sims, who suffered a knee injury late last season but appears to be back to full strength.
"The knee is good," Sims said. "It feels strong, I am healthy."
While Hoover will not be as high profile with recruits as it was in 2010, Niblett doesn't think that his team will be any worse for the wear.
"If we work hard to get better and we coach them up, we will be fine," he said.
Hoover will begin with a preseason RivalsHigh 100 ranking, but has a very tough road ahead to maintain or improve on it.
The Buccaneers will open with 2010 national champion Batesville (Miss.) South Panola before playing its on-the-rise neighbor Hoover (Ala.) Spain Park, as well as Gadsden (Ala.) Gadsden City and Madison (Ala.) Bob Jones.
FAYETTEVILLE PASSING THE TORCH
A state finalist a year ago, Fayetteville (Ark.) High lost its four-star quarterback Brandon Allen to Arkansas.
For many programs, a quarterback like Allen comes around once a decade, if ever.
The Bulldogs, however, did not have to wait long to find a suitable replacement.
Austin Allen, Brandon's younger brother, will step right in and fill the spot immediately.
"Austin is very talented," head coach Darryl Patton said. "He can make all the throws and he has terrific touch on his deep ball."
Patton said that Austin has even surpassed his early - and high - expectations.
"He has completed 80 percent of his passes this summer," Patton said. "He has thrown 72 touchdowns this summer and only five interceptions; three of those were on tipped passes."
The obvious comparisons have already started.
"Austin is probably in a better place physically at this age than Brandon was," Patton said. "But mentally, he needs to improve his maturity to get to where his brother was."