April 10, 2008

South Panola standout taking his time

BATESVILLE, Miss. _ David Conner has always thought he'd like to get away from Batesville and away from his home state after his days at South Panola High School were over.

"When I went to Ole Miss for junior day, a whole bunch of stuff changed in my head," Conner said. "I thought about staying and going to college here. I'm keeping them in mind."

Conner, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound strong safety/outside linebacker for the top-ranked prep team in Mississippi, isn't ready to make any decisions yet. There are titles to defend and a diploma to be earned.

"Right now, I'm just interested in everybody who's interested in me," Conner said. "Right now, I'm just trying to keep my grades up and then I can go anywhere I want. That way, when decision time comes, I'll have choices."

From all indications, Conner will have decisions to make. He already has scholarship offers from Auburn and Mississippi State and several programs such as Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Miami and Michigan have expressed serious interest.

"He's got great strength and explosion and he's a really well-built kid," South Panola coach Lance Pogue said. "He's got great speed. The thing is, he's just a relentless, tough football player. He's got one speed."

"He could be a nickel guy, a strong safety-type guy. He's a big-time hitter."

Conner had 98 tackles _ including 17 for losses _ and recorded 12 sacks, three interceptions and four blocked punts as a junior.

"He's a guy who can make plays," Pogue said. "He makes plays all over the field. He's the top outside linebacker/safety prospect in the state coming back, I don't think there's any question."

Pogue said that while Auburn and Mississippi State have made very favorable first impressions by offering Conner based strictly on his junior film, it's not too late for other programs, including Ole Miss, to get in the game.

"I think (Ole Miss) is recruiting him," Conner said. "They've seemed to indicate that they want to see him in camp. That's great. People want to do extra homework and I understand. I can only say this: Mississippi State and Auburn have offered him off of junior film and Ole Miss wants a little more extensive evaluation."

Conner is doing some evaluating of his own these days. He's looking for a college home where he can play strong safety, major in physical therapy and feel comfortable.

"I'm looking for a college that knows how to take care of me and help make me a person who not only plays football but takes care of my grades," Conner said. "I haven't gotten to any of their visit days and I don't know too much about them, but Auburn talks pretty good about their academics. That's a college where I know that it's not just about playing football. They want you to get more than just football. As for Mississippi State, I love their program too. All of the coaches there are hand-writing me and letting me know they want me to get my schoolwork first. Both of them are pretty good on me right now."

The Tigers and Bulldogs lead at this point, certainly, but the school 23 miles east on Highway 6 could make a strong move with a scholarship offer.

"When I went down to Ole Miss for junior day, they treated me like I was already there," Conner said. "They want to play me at the position I want to play and I admire Ole Miss a whole lot. When I was there for junior day, me and (Ole Miss safeties coach Kim Dameron) sat down in the film room and we went over about 15 plays and I understood all of them. He told me he doesn't like to keep his plays complicated. He likes to keep his plays easy and simple. I learned them right then and there.

"They would be right there with them (with a scholarship offer). I'm interested in Ole Miss."

Pogue said Conner is on track to meet NCAA initial-eligibility requirements.

"He's in great shape," Pogue said. "He'll be a qualifier without any question. He's got great character."

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