The all-star season is upon us and that means that Mobile, Ala., will be crawling with some of the top senior football prospects in the states of Mississippi and Alabama as they prepare for the 22nd annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic.
Last season, Alabama entered the contest with two five-stars on its roster in Julio Jones and Burton Scott while Mississippi had none. However, a week of practice and a decisive 26-7 Mississippi victory went a long way to awarding one five-star to the Mississippi roster.
Deandre Brown picked up a fifth star after already being considered an elite receiver nationally. Alonzo Lawrence also jumped to the second-rated player nationally at his position, coming from relative obscurity on the national scene to one of the most highly recruited prospects late in the process.
The numbers are similar this season. The only five-stars on either roster are on the Alabama side in cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker. However, much like Brown last season, there are a number of players in striking distance to make a jump with a big performance, particularly on the Mississippi side.
Perhaps the top candidate for such a move is Macon (Miss.) Noxubee County wide receiver Patrick Patterson. Patterson just got finished leading his team to a 4A state championship and has the kind of strength and physical ability that already has him sitting among the top receivers in the nation.
Another prospect with an opportunity to continue to raise his stock is Kevin Norwood whose D'Iberville team lost to Patterson and Noxubee County in the state finals. After battling it out all night long in the state finals, Norwood and Patterson will get the opportunity to abuse opposing defensive backs rather than each other.
There are several other four-stars joining Norwood and Patterson on the Mississippi side. Chad Bumphis adds another scary wide receiver threat while Dennis Thames of Louisville, Miss. is a multi-purpose athlete that probably projects as a safety. Defensively, Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd will be holding down the line of scrimmage and Rod Woodson would be patrolling the secondary if not for a broken foot.
On the Alabama sideline, the four-stars include Alabama commit AJ McCarron, wide receiver Kendall Kelly and inside linebacker Tana Patrick. After spending a season behind an undermanned offensive line and a depleted receiving corps, McCarron should thrive with the skill around him in Mobile. A strong performance by Patrick could continue to legitimize him as an elite national linebacker after playing limited competition in high school.
If Patterson is the player with a shot at following in Brown's footsteps, Tyler Russell may be the player with the best shot at mimicking Lawrence's meteoric rise. Russell is far from anonymous within the state of Mississippi after quarterbacking his team to a 5A state championship and ending South Panola's 89-game win-streak in the process. But playing with - and against- some of the best talent in the southeast, Russell has a great opportunity to showcase his great size and rifle arm.
Some Alabama prospects with a chance to make a name for themselves include speedy local product Mujahid Assad out of Mobile (Ala.) Williamson, Vanderbilt defensive line commit Darrius McMullin and Mobile (Ala.) Blount defensive back Eric Graham.
Throughout the week, Rivals.com will be on hand giving evaluations, daily notebooks, Hot 11s and message board updates from every two-a-day practice during the week. Along with the performance updates, there are 52 uncommitted players to keep an eye on with recruiting updates and news.
With recent coaching changes at Mississippi State, Tennessee and Auburn, even committed players like Auburn commit Jonathan Evans or Tennessee commit Aubrey Phillips will have plenty to think about during the week.