Hudl Champions: Josh Niblett on Maximizing Your Roster

Every coach wants to create great depth for his team, but Hoover High’s coach has perfected it. His creativity helped bring home the Alabama state title.

Hudl Champions: Josh Niblett on Maximizing Your Roster

Every coach wants to create great depth for his team, but Hoover High’s coach has perfected it. His creativity helped bring home the Alabama state title.

We like to highlight the best of the best, and that’s our goal with the Hudl Champions series. We want to tap state champion coaches and gain insights that can help others get an edge on Friday nights.

Coach: Josh Niblett, Hoover HS

State: Alabama

Record: 12-2 (Class 7A)

Championship score: Hoover 17, McGill-Toolen 7

As he prepared Hoover High School for the Alabama Class 7A title game, Josh Niblett began to worry about McGill-Toolen’s passing attack. The defending state champions boasted a lethal passing attack, and Niblett questioned if his pass rush would be able to get to the quarterback.

But then he remembered a move he made earlier in the year, one that seemed rather small at the time. Injuries left Hoover a bit short-handed on the defensive line that week, so Niblett tried one of his backup cornerbacks, DeCarlos Hurt, at defensive end. He was a great athlete and Niblett gambled that his speed would help disrupt McGill-Toolen’s offense.

The converted defensive back had two sacks as Hoover held McGill-Toolen to its lowest scoring output of the season, winning the state championship 17-7. Niblett’s creativity and desire to create depth played a key role in helping Hoover win its fourth title since 2012.

“If you’re a really good football player, we’re going to find you a place to play,” Niblett said. “We’ve got to find ways to make sure we get our best football players on the field. If there are 25 of them, we’ve got to get them all in there and make sure they all understand their role.”

Hurt was ready to step in because Niblett empowered him and let him know his worth. Though not a starter, Niblett kept him engaged by constantly looking to put his best talent on the field, even if some ideas were a bit unconventional.

Niblett meets with each player before the season to discuss their role as he sees it, and will update those conversations as the season progresses.

“They’ve got to have a role so they don’t get lost in the program,” Niblett said. “That’s what you don’t want. You don’t want a kid’s career to be over and he still doesn’t understand what his role is as a football player. We want you to leave understanding that you have value, that you added value to our program.”

While Niblett is constrained to playing just 11 defenders at one time, he strives to get all his capable players on the field, allowing not only for fresher athletes but also the opportunity to create mismatches.

“We tell our kids, if you want to play or you want to be a part of what we’re doing, just go out and compete,” Niblett said. “I mean, I’d love to have 28 guys on defense. We can only play 11 at a time, but if we’ve got 28 guys that can play, we’re going to play them.”

Niblett’s desire to keep everyone involved allows him to find his most talented players and put them in the best position to succeed. But it also keeps them engaged and involved in the program. Niblett understands the need to help each athlete find his niche - sometimes the role players or bench guy can make monster waves behind the scenes.

“If you asked me what was the No. 1 thing that helped us win a championship, to me it’s culture,” Niblett said. “I think culture creates behavior, and behavior creates leadership. I think culture and behavior are interchangeable, but I don’t think leadership is interchangeable. You’ve got to have leadership. A guy who rushes for 2,000 yards, is he always going to be your leader? No. How about the guy that doesn’t play a whole lot? That guy could have more influence and more impact of being a leader than anybody.”

Did you make any creative position moves to create depth or help your team win this season? Let us know in the comments below.

Previous Hudl Champions

Jason Negro, St. John Bosco (Calif.)

Todd Peterman, DeSoto High (Texas)

Kirk Fridrich, Union High (Okla.)

Steve Specht, St. Xavier (Ohio)

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