When you think of Panola county in Mississippi, there's one school that comes to mind. South Panola has been the most dominant school in Mississippi the past decade and have produced many SEC prospects, however, the next big prospect out of Panola county is Willie Hibbler, and he goes to North Panola High School in Sardis, MS.
Hibbler is a 6-4 220 ATH that sees action at quarterback, wide receiver, and free safety on the high school level. When he's at quarterback he feels that he has an advantage because of his speed, while he is working to improve his eyes and keeping them down field when the rush comes. At wide receiver, he feels that his size is his biggest strength. To become a better receiver, he is working on his hands and also his hand-eye coordination. He also brings something unique to the receiver position, he loves to block. He says that his coaches stress blocking and never taking a play off in practice that has really hit home with him.
No matter what position Hibber is at, what his coaches ask him to do for his team remains the same. They want him to be a leader.
"No matter what position, my coaches just ask me to stay in control of the team and keep the team together, especially at quarterback. My coaches just want me to stay position," Hibbler said.
As far as his recruitment, Hibbler is getting big time interest early in the process. So far Hibbler holds offers from Ole Miss and Memphis, however, he is also receiving heavy interest from Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Georgia, UCLA, Clemson, Duke, and many more schools located from coast to coast. He says that Alabama and Tennessee have been on him hard lately, sending him letters, inviting him to camp, and trying to get him on campus. He also says that he hears good things from other players about Alabama and Tennessee about the academics at both schools.
Academics are clearly the most important thing to Hibbler when it comes to choosing a school.
"I just want to go to a school where they are serious about academics. I know my parents are serious about academics and I am, too. I want to find a coaching staff that worries about your academics first and your football life second. I want to go to a school with an academics first attitude," Hibbler noted.
When it comes to what schools like best about him and all the versatility he offers, some schools are talking to him about continuing to play quarterback on the next level. Ole Miss has said he could play receiver, quarterback or wherever he feels most comfortable on the next level. Memphis likes him best at receiver. As for Hibbler, he says that he prefers to stay at receiver on the next level.
When offer number one came through for Hibbler, when the Rebels of Ole Miss offered this Spring, he was shocked. However, it wasn't long before his parents and coaches and those around him were bringing him back down to earth. He was surprised, but he knows with all the interest and attention he gets and will get that he must stay humble and work even harder. He noted that getting his first few offers makes him want to work harder to get even more.
That attitude is also the approach he will use in the recruiting process.
"I just have to stay humble and focus on high school. I have to focus on myself and how hard I am working and not what is happening to others around me and their recruitment. I will probably make a late decision because I will talk it over with my family and just leave it to God," Hibbler said.
This past Saturday Hibbler participated in Steve Robertson's Southern Select combine, and I noted him as one of the top performers from the event. Although he was not happy with his forty yard dash time, he talked to his coaches, and then felt like he came back strong in the 1-on-1 drills. He used his size and route running ability to make a lot of plays in the 1-on-1s. After he left the event, he was able to reflect on his performance and he feels like overall, he did will. He said that his performance will only motivate him going forward.
That won't be Hibbler's last stop this summer either, as he has plans to camp at Alabama, Tennessee, Duke, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Georgia. He would like to go to as many camps as he can this summer. He says that his coaches and himself are working on a plan that will have him somewhere to perform almost every day this summer. He would like to hit some 7-on-7 events this summer, because he can show his football abilities better than he can just running the forty yard dash or cone drills or things like that.
He also notes that he is building a relationship with Markeise Rodgers, the quarterback from Byhalia, that began on Saturday. He said Rodgers was his quarterback for the 1-on-1 drills and they talked about what they needed to improve on and they will stay in contact.
This fall Hibbler has goals for himself and for his team. For himself he just wants to take it one game, even one play at a time.
"I want to make sure that every day I work and I work so I can be better than last year," Hibbler said of his personal goals.
His goals for his team are just as simple.
"I want to keep myself up and positive for my team and my team, we want to stay positive and keep ourselves up for our coaching staff and bring it all together and try to win a state championship," Hibbler added.
My take on Willie Hibbler
When you see Hibbler perform in person, it is easy to see why he has the attention of so many schools, but when I talked to him it was easy to see why this young man is no less than a star in the making. It is very early in his recruitment, but he will experience the full go of the process, but I have no doubts he is more than prepared to handle whatever comes at him. He is a very well-spoken, intelligent individual and great young man. He is what college football should be about and a guy you can't help but root for.
As for his game, he's very talented and very versatile. Like he stated, he loves to block and when you see him work at receiver, he has the skills to run and catch and when you look at him, he has great size. I say all that to say this, I think he projects well as a tight end at the next level. A modern, spread-type tight end that can be a mismatch over the middle of the field and a guy you can flex out wide at times. Hibbler is without question a top five prospect in the state for the class of 2015 and likely a top three guy. He will be a big time prospect, so don't forget his name. It should be fun to watch him develop until February of 2015.