December 13, 2007

Ala.-Miss. Notebook: No rest for the weary

MOBILE, Ala. - There is no rest for the weary, particularly if you are an all-star, a multi-sport athlete and a state champion.

Dekendrick Moncrief closed out his senior football season at Prattville High School just as he had hoped to, with a state championship. But Moncrief didn't get long to enjoy his accomplishment. He had more work that needed to be done.

"I won the championship Saturday, got off Sunday, had a basketball game Monday and Tuesday and got here on Wednesday," Moncrief said. "So I haven't had a break but I'm used to that by now."

Don't misunderstand the three-star wide receiver, he is not complaining about his trip down to Mobile, Ala. In fact, this week has been something that he has been looking forward to for a while.

"I'm excited about this week," he said. "Just to compete with some of the great players that are out here. I take it as an Alabama versus Mississippi pride thing. I'm very excited to come out here and represent my state, come out here and play good and get the W."

It won't take much time for Moncrief to get accustomed to the quarterback for Alabama's team as Prattville's Casey Weston will be taking half of the snaps.

"It's great that I get to play with my own quarterback," he said.

While Moncrief has been putting off the recruiting process until after the season, he is finally beginning to think about what school he may want to play college ball at next year. Right now, he lists Auburn, Alabama, Memphis, Louisville and Clemson as some schools at the top of his developing list.

The stars shine

Julio Jones is a name that the whole recruiting world has become very familiar with. His physically imposing presence, size, strength, hands and athleticism have cemented him firmly as the top wide receiver prospect in the nation. The first day of practice in Mobile continued to reaffirm that ranking.

Jones is physically ready for the college game right now. Due to his strength, he is a huge mismatch at the line of scrimmage for any defender in press coverage. He continued to show his good hands and his ability to make plays in traffic and in the air. Few receivers are more effective in a jump ball situation than Jones.

Just a couple of miles away from the Alabama practice, DeAndre Brown was showing that he should be mentioned in the same conversation as Jones. Standing with the best players that the state of Mississippi has to offer, Brown stands out. He is very natural catching the ball, runs extremely well for a receiver of any size and looks to be very motivated to put on a good performance in practice.

Between four days of practice and game, Brown will have plenty of opportunity to prove that he should be considered among the top receivers in the country.

Secondary standouts

Both Mississippi and Alabama boast strong defenders in the secondary. On the Mississippi side, Alonzo Lawrence immediately showed that he is an impact player at cornerback. He is a quick-twitch athlete that explodes to the ball and looks like he will be a real difference maker for Mississippi. The Mississippi coaching staff looks like it has recognized his unique playmaking ability and will be using him on some snaps on offense as well as defense. During a morning scrimmage period, Lawrence was one of two Mississippi defenders to intercept a pass for a touchdown. The first was Clarksdale defensive back Charles Mitchell

Mitchell plays strong safety for the Mississippi team and has made some early plays to differentiate himself on a talented team. He is 5-foot-11 and thick at 195. He has the frame to move to outside linebacker but the athleticism to play cornerback. He has good instincts and closes on the ball quickly. Mitchell is the type of player on defense that a quarterback always needs to account for pre-snap.

At cornerback opposite Lawrence, Kendrick Presley got tested twice at the morning practice on deep balls to DeAndre Brown. On both plays, Presley stayed with the bigger Brown and was able to get the pass breakups. In a matchup against such a towering receiver, Presley showed that his 6-foot-1 height as a cornerback can be a major asset.

For Alabama, two defensive backs looked very good as well. Five-star Burton Scott out of Vigor High School lived up to his billing. He is a fluid athlete with good hips and acceleration. He showed great athleticism in coverage and will provide a good challenge for Brown and the Mississippi receiving corps.

A less well-known name that impressed was D'Antoine Hood. One great way to get noticed this week on the Alabama practice field is to effectively blanket the five-star in Jones. Hood did just that on more than one occasion. The 5-foot-9 185-pound corner is looking to make an impression this week and got off to a good start on day one. Hood defended the deep ball well, made plays on the ball in the air and looked right at home among five-stars and national recruits.

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