HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Rivals.com Five-Star Academy circuit traveled to one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country over the weekend when it touched down on the campus of Southern Miss. The Hattiesburg location drew players from Mississippi, New Orleans, Mobile and Baton Rouge.
Though the event featured some elite juniors with growing offer lists, the top players in attendance hailed from the class of 2012. Though several of the names are still flying low on the radar, more spring and summer appearances will likely expose these sophomores as some of the top prospects in the region.
Walking through the door, the can't-miss prospect of the event was 2012 Long Beach, Miss. defensive tackle Nick James. James looks anything but a sophomore, measuring in at 6 feet 4.5 and 335 pounds, with hardly any bad weight on him.
As a freshman, James started at St. Stanislaus. He then transferred to Long Beach as a sophomore. His transfer may have limited some of his recruitment but expect that to pick up heavily after he gets out to some camps and once coaches see him in the spring evaluation period.
Lutcher, La., sophomore running back Daniel Taylor doesn't have the physical presence of James at 5-7 163 pounds but he has certainly proven himself on the football field. Taylor was part of an explosive offensive attack at Lutcher and has already picked up verbal offers from Tennessee and Auburn. He was joined by fellow Lutcher sophomore Jordan Batiste, who is a star on the opposite side of the ball at cornerback.
Another of the more impressive prospects in attendance from a physical standpoint was Prichard (Ala.) Vigor tight end Paul Kyles. Kyles measured in at 6 feet 2 and 243 pounds and looked every bit the physically overpowering tight end that he has proven to be on the field. He already holds a verbal offer from Auburn and will likely see a host of others come in this fall.
While the 2012 presence at the event was strong, there were also plenty of elite 2011 prospects that made an appearance. Among that group Donte Moncrief was as big of a name as any. Moncrief looked big and strong as a wide receiver, measuring in at 6-2, 203 pounds. He currently holds offers from Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Mississippi State and Memphis and he is part of a loaded class of wide receivers in the state of Mississippi.
Also included within that loaded group of receivers is Woodville (Miss.) Wilkinson County's Devin Fosselman. At 5-10, 182 pounds, he already holds a Southern Miss offer likely with more on the way. Tyriq Patrick of Philadelphia, Miss., has seen his teammate C.J. Johnson reel in numerous offers but Patrick may be next in line with big-play ability at wide receiver.
The skill players were well-represented in Hattiesburg but there was some beef as well. Mississippi State commit Nick Redmond measured at 6-5 and 308 pounds and looked good on the hoof as the tallest player in attendance.
New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr defensive end Timothy Johnson was not as big but also looked well-put-together at 6-0, 207 and may be more of an outside linebacker at the next level. Johnson currently holds an offer from Minnesota.