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August 26, 2011

Hoover plays host to doubleheader

MORE NIEBUHR: Memphis-Nashville | N. Ala-S. Ala

Once again, there are several big-time matchups in the Southeast this week. On Saturday, Rivals.com Southeast Analyst Keith Niebuhr will be at two of them. In Hoover, Ala., Prattville (Ala.), the country's No. 1-ranked team, faces No. 9 Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas. Also, No. 10 Batesville South Panola (Miss.) meets perennial power Hoover. The previous night, Niebuhr will be just south of Birmingham to check out Hueytown, which features dynamic quarterback Jameis Winston, and Pelham.

Here are five things he is looking forward to seeing this weekend.

1. The dual-threat star: Everyone is raving about Winston, the Florida State commit, and his performance at the Elite 11 this summer in California, but now the pads are on and opposing players are charging at him. A week ago, Winston led his team past an excellent opponent. In the process, he accounted for nearly 400 yards of offense. On the flip side, he was intercepted three times. The word is, Winston's good plays far outweighed the bad, but it will be interesting to see what kind of progress he makes from Week 1 to Week 2 - and if he cleans up some of the miscues.

2. Prattville's star-studded team: Prattville is No. 1 for a reason. Ten of its seniors already have committed, including two to Alabama and one to Florida State. But this might be the toughest test Prattville faces all season. St. Thomas Aquinas lost a ton of talent from its 2010 state championship powerhouse - and its longtime coach - but this is a program that is never lacking in talent and it knows how to win the big game. St. Thomas Aquinas, which is led by Miami defensive end commit Jelani Hamilton, is typically one of the most organized and well-prepared squads in the country.

3. Justin Thomas at quarterback: The Prattville signal-caller, who is committed to Alabama, insists he will get a shot at QB in Tuscaloosa. But most, however, believe that because of his size (5-feet-11, 175 pounds) and tremendous speed he'll likely end up at receiver or defensive back in college. In any event, it will be interesting to see how he handles a big-game environment and a defense that will be intent on shutting him down. Regardless of which position Thomas' college position, one thing is certain: He's a tremendous athlete.

4. Rebel Yell: Two Ole Miss commits anchor the South Panola defensive line - tackle Issac Gross and end Temario Strong. Both currently are three-star prospects, though some believe they might be a little underrated. Gross probably is the more talented of the two. A 6-3, 270-pounder, he's a particularly good defender against the run thanks to his quickness and raw power.

5. The OT vs. DE: In offensive tackle [db]Austin Golson[/db}, Prattville has one of the top young players in the South. The 6-6, 275-pounder already has committed to FSU. More than likely, he'll go toe-to-toe with Hamilton at times, which would be an elite matchup at the high school level. The 6-5, 250-pound Hamilton is a Rivals100 prospect with a great upside. Will either be exposed? Or will this be a memorable battle?

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at kneebs01@aol.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KeithRIVALS.



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