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MONDAY, AUGUST 20, 2007
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Leaping into
the picture

Hartselle’s Stover makes impression for Crimson Tide

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — If there is anything notable about the 2007 version of Alabama wide receiver Nikita Stover, it is his jumping ability.

As he did when he played at Hartselle High, Stover is showing a greater penchant leaping at any ball headed his way. That almost got him in trouble during practice Aug. 5.

Quarterback John Parker Wilson threw a pass into the back corner of the end zone, and Stover went up for it over a defending cornerback. He missed the catch, landed on his hip and stayed down for several minutes.

Stover appeared seriously hurt at first as trainers brought a stretcher onto the field. But he got up and walked off under his own power.

“I am 100 percent now. I’m feeling pretty good,” said Stover, a 6-foot-0, 204-pound junior. “I just jumped in the air, and my legs got caught on someone’s pads, and I landed directly on my hip.”

At the start of preseason practice, the popular buzz phrase around Crimson Tide camp included throwing something against the wall and “seeing what sticks.”

With Stover, it seemed that a decent amount stuck. After only three days of preseason drills, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite already was seeing signs of Stover being a solid option at receiver.

“He learned and progressed, and I’m sure he will do the same at this fall camp,” Applewhite said toward the beginning of preseason practice. “He has shown signs of it.”

Much of that comes from his strong showing at the end of last year. He spent one season at Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Miss.

Then Stover played sparingly when he got to Alabama last season.

In one of his few chances to shine, he had a 36-yard reception that set up Alabama’s game-winning field goal in the Tide’s 13-10 victory against Vanderbilt on Sept. 9.

But it wasn’t until the final two games of the regular season that Stover showed why he was one of the top recruits in Alabama coming out of Hartselle.

Against LSU, Stover scored his first collegiate touchdown, a 6-yard grab during Alabama’s 28-14 loss at LSU.

Then against Auburn, he benefited from the Tigers double-teaming top receiver DJ Hall most of the game. Stover saw a lot of single-coverage defense against him, and he burned the Tigers for five catches and 101 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown strike where Stover got behind cornerback David Irons and sprinted down the field for the score.

For Stover, it was just a matter of confidence. With starting wide receiver Keith Brown going in and out of the lineup with a knee injury most of the second half of the season, Stover got his chance to showcase his talent more consistently.

“It made me know I could play with the best, make plays instead of sitting on the sidelines,” Stover said. “That can get your confidence down, but it let me know I could make plays.”

While practices are closed to reporters, Stover’s teammates have talked often about him.

Stover has gotten faster, bigger and stronger, and believe it or not, he can jump higher. Just ask first-team preseason All-SEC cornerback Simeon Castille.

“He is always going up for the ball,” Castille said recently. “If they throw it up he is going to do his best to get it.”

Nikita Stover

at a glance

  • Made Class 5A all-state as a senior at Hartselle High in 2003, catching 40 passes for more than 900 yards and eight touchdowns.

  • Played at Itawamba Community College inFulton, Miss., one season, catching 26 passes for 588 yards and six touchdowns and averaging 30 yards per kickoff return.

  • Last year in his first season at Alabama, he finished with 12 catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns.

  • Caught a 6-yard pass for a touchdown against LSU. Made five catches against Auburn for 101 yards and a touchdown.

    Josh Cooper

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