The Alabama Mississippi all-star game intrigues me each and every year because, athletically, these two teams typically match up dozens of DI prospects equally against one another. And, as a fan of the Alabama high school coaches and teams, I think it’s pretty awesome that every single year Alabama’s players are better coached and better fundamentally than their Mississippi foes and that always seems to win the day. Save for a late Mississippi fourth quarter rally, this year was no exception.
The Alabama all-stars won for the fifth consecutive time and are now 19-7 against the Mississippi All Stars after winning the game 21-16. The ‘Bama all stars led the game 21-0 in the fourth quarter but eventually had to hang on to get the win. For your reading pleasure, I watched the game a couple of times and I took a few notes on some key players that I wanted to see. I’ve segmented the prospects into four categories: Alabama Commits, Alabama Recruits (meaning they haven’t signed with Alabama but we are recruiting them hard), Auburn Commits and Others of Note. If you don’t want to read anything positive about the Auburn commits then I’d encourage you to stop reading after you get thru the Alabama Recruits section b/c a couple of the AU guys looked very good. Anyway, enjoy!
Darius Paige (6’3, 295 DT from Foley, AL)– Whoa Nelly – was I ever impressed with Paige. Paige is one very large mammal and he played to his size throughout the contest. In fact, he burst thru the line during an extra point and penetrated so quickly that he nearly had the ball hit him in the midsection. Unfortunately (or fortunately for him) the ball was a little to the side and it missed him completely. At any rate, Paige showed up on the tape a ton and seemed to bring a pretty good motor with his outstanding size. He was voted as the strongest player from either team so that means that he’s plenty big and he plays even bigger. Outstanding prospect…he has yet to take his ACT, though.
Johnathan Cook (6’0, 185 CB from Spanish Fort, AL) – Cook came into the week hoping and praying for an Alabama scholarship offer and he more than earned it with his practice and his play. Cook entered the week as a Nebraska commitment but after showing the scouts that he was the best cornerback on the field BY FAR, Kirby smart ran up to Cook after the game and had Nick Saban on the phone offering him a scholarship. During the game, Cook showed a willingness to come up in run support and showed outstanding instincts when the ball was in flight. He looked really, really good each and every time he was challenged. With corner being the one glaring need on the Bama team, Cook looks to be an excellent prospect for the positon.
Ardarius Stewart (6’1, 190 WR/S from Fultondale, AL) – During the week, Stewart impressed the coaches with his athleticism and ability to play on either side of the ball. Instead of playing his preferred WR position, Stewart was moved to safety for the week and the game. Stewart did appear to be a pretty solidly built young man and made a few plays during the game. But, by and large, he was playing out of position so it was a bit difficult to get a true read on him. Again, the coaches raved about him during the week so he looks to be a pretty good get for Bama.
Dee Liner (6’2, 274 DE from Muscle Shoals, AL) – By all accounts, Liner had a very solid week of practice showing scouts why he’s so well thought of. However, during the game Liner appeared smaller than his listed 274 and seemed to play smaller, as well. I honestly didn’t think that Liner seemed to have much, if any, impact on the game itself. The one time I did notice him, he was getting into some extra curriculars with an offensive lineman after the play. Frankly, I was disappointed that I didn’t see a lot more out of him. He did appear to move well laterally, so that was good to see, but I didn’t see him overwhelm blockers like Chris Jones (listed below) did all day long. Incidentally, Liner didn’t grant any interviews during the week but the strong belief is that he’ll be joining the Tide’s list of commits.
Reuben Foster (6’2, 228 LB from Auburn, AL) – I wanted to be disappointed in Foster. I wanted to believe he wasn’t nearly as good as advertised. Well folks, he’s pretty damn good. Foster flashed numerous times with big hits and a sideline to sideline viciousness. Foster seemed to be playing at full speed while everyone else was going ¾ speed. I have to say that Foster was very impressive and showed why he’s a 5 star stud – this explains why the Bama staff is still holding onto one final rose for Mr Foster.
Marquez White (6’1, 190 CB from Dothan, AL) – At 6’1, 190 White has the typical requirements for a Nick Saban corner and Alabama has stayed in contact with White in the hopes of turning him away from his FSU commitment. However, those talks ended after watching Johnathan Cook and reeling in his commitment immediately after the game. White was a huge disappointment during the week of practices and during the game as he gave up two long TD passes, getting beaten badly on each one. Adios Marquez – you’ve been Tomahawk Chopped (and Cook’ed).
Austin Golson (6’6, 284 OL from Prattville, AL) – Well, if the player of the game was Mississippi DL Chris Jones (see below) then it must mean that the entire Alabama offensive line was pretty woeful. While Jones definitely beat Golson repeatedly with an inside swim move, when Golson did manage to get his mitts on Jones he was the only lineman who at least managed a stalemate. Golson’s run blocking was solid and he was very passionate about getting after his blocks. But, as with 90% of the young high school tackles, he’s going to need a redshirt year to build up his size and hone in his pass blocking. Prattville has historically been very good to Alabama and they continue to pursue Golson to try and sway him from his FSU commitment. The fact that Bama is pursuing Golson so hard may be telling about how they feel about landing five-star OL Laremy Tunsil…
Jeremy Johnson (6’6, 215 QB from Montgomery, AL) – Johnson is an AU commit so I was very interested in seeing what the Tigers had coming in at the QB position. Color me unimpressed – I’m guessing there’s a reason the Bama staff never offered him. While the 6’6 Johnson looks very impressive off the hoof, his game needs a LOT of refinement. He has a very strong-arm but at this point he makes poor decisions on when to throw it and on the shorter passes he seems unable to take a little steam off the pass. He also seemed to be unwilling to take advantage of his running abilities during this game but, to be fair, it was just an all-star game. While physically Johnson looks the part, in my opinion he has a loooong way to go before he’s going to contribute anything as a top flight SEC QB.
Jason Smith (6’1, 187 WR from Mobile, AL) – This former high school QB absolutely blew up as a WR during the practices as well as the game, garnering the MVP trophy. My goodness, this kid can play. He made several outstanding catches and showed an innate ability to separate from his defender on every route he ran. So, he was always wide open and showed the kind of hands that would make scouts drool. Smith is an AU commitment and they got themselves an outstanding WR. He will need to thicken up a bit but he looks to be a great get for AU.
Kamryn Melton (5’10, 165 CB from Dothan, AL) – All game long the kid who kept flashing on the screen was Kamryn Melton. I’d never heard of this kid but he made plays in run support and pass defense throughout the game. Melton is a bit of an undersized corner but it certainly appears that Auburn has a good one in Melton. Saturday this three-star intercepted a pass, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and made a tackle for a loss. Wow. He’d never fit the profile for a Nick Saban corner but I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more from Melton over the next four years.
Others of Note
Chris Jones (6’6, 250 DE from Houston, MS) – Goodnight nurse, this kid is a beast. Somehow at 6’6 250 he’s a defensive end that’s only rated as a three-star prospect but Jones (a Mississippi State commit) appeared to be the best player on either team Saturday. While his size is imposing, his quickness and ability to use his hands to dislodge would be blockers was crazy good. Jones was a beast and was BY FAR the best player on the field. His 8 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a hurry were just a little sampling of what Jones can do. Stud.
Nick Mullens (6’1, 185 QB from Spain Park, AL) – While AU commitment Jeremy Johnson came in with the top billing at the QB position, Nick Mullens was by far the more impressive QB. Mullens is only 6’1 but he throws an excellent ball, showing arm strength and accuracy. I came away from the game really impressed by Mullens. If he was 6’2 or 6’3, he’d be a stud. He completed 8 of 12 for 156 yards – pretty amazing for having only a few days of practice with his WRs and the constant harassment of Jones.
Johnathan Ford (5’11, 190 RB from New Hope, AL) – Ford is a kid who Bama has kept in touch with but doesn’t have room for so Ford is packing his bags and headed to Vandy. Ford looked very good during the practices and showed good speed and vision during the game. While he’s not the biggest (hence the lack of a Bama offer and his three-star rating) he’s extremely quick and, if he’s able to bulk up, should make the two deep at Vandy after his redshirt year.