Stover catching on at Itawamba CC
Charles Prince, Hartselle Enquirer
Fulton, Miss. – He was known for his blazing speed in high school, which he used to score nine touchdowns and average over 25 yards per catch in 2003.
But for defenders who assume he's just a speedy receiver, they have another thing coming.
"I'm stronger than I was last year," Nikita Stover said. "I can run over people now if I have to."
Stover, who played at around 185 pounds for Hartselle High School, weighed in for his physical at Itawamba Community College at 197 pounds. The additional weight is not the result of inactivity and over-eating, but from hard work in the weight room.
"He worked out hard over the summer," Itawamba assistant coach Dwike Wilson said. "He hit the weights hard and put on some more muscle."
The added weight was needed at the junior college level, where the play is more physical than in high school.
"Things are tougher on receivers at the college level," Stover said. "Linebackers hit you and try knock you off your route. You get hit on every play just trying to run your routes."
Stover, who played outside receiver at Hartselle, has been moved to the inside slot receiver in a four-wide attack at Itawamba. The move is designed to get Stover as many touches as possible.
"We can get him the ball easier in the slot than on the outside," Itawamba offensive coordinator Buddy Collins said. "There are fewer routes you can run outside, so we have him inside. We want him to get the ball as often as possible, because he
can really make plays after the catch."
In spite of his increased size, Stover hasn't lost any of his trademark speed. He demonstrated it during the Indians third game of the season. He returned the opening kickoff against East Mississippi Community College 55 yards to the East Mississippi 39-yard line. On the next play, Stover got past his defender and caught a touchdown pass. Only 21 seconds had elapsed off the game clock and Stover had already accounted for 94 total yards and six points.
So far this season, Stover has caught 15 passes for 165 yards and one touchdown. In addition, he has also returned nine kickoffs for a 228 yards.
Stover, who was the most sought after high school football player in Alabama last year, originally signed with the Crimson Tide, but did not qualify academically. After completing two years at Itawamba, Stover will qualify to transfer to Alabama and fulfill his dream of playing with the Crimson Tide.
The coaches at Itawamba think Stover needs to improve his route running before he begins his Crimson Tide career. After playing at the college level for four weeks, Stover agrees with their assessment.
"In high school the only routes I ran were deep routes and hitches," Stover said. "Here there are a lot of corner and out routes. I've found out you have to run more disciplined routes in college. I need to really improve my footwork before I get to Alabama. I'm working on my fakes to the inside and then cutting back outside. It's all footwork. If you stick it with your footwork, you can run good routes. I'm working on my cutting to get separation from the defenders. "
Stover, who wore jersey No. 2 at Hartselle, now wears No. 6 at Itawamba. He says he will have his favorite jersey number when he gets to Tuscaloosa.
"A guy already had No. 2 when I got here," Stover said. "But I'm going to wear No. 2 when I get to Tuscaloosa. There's not question, I'm still going to attend Alabama. I plan on red-shirting here next year and I'll have three years of eligibility left with the Crimson Tide."