May 16, 2008

Two-team race for South Panola star

David Conner had just about made his mind up.

Then Ole Miss came through with a scholarship offer.

Suddenly, the Batesville (South Panola), Miss., standout is "kind of confused."

Conner, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound strong safety ranked No. 18 on the Preseason Mississippi Top 25, got an offer from Ole Miss about a week ago. The Rebels, Conner said, wanted to make sure Conner's lack of height wouldn't be a hindrance at the college level. Conner, who had 98 tackles, 12 sacks and three interceptions for the defending state champions a year ago, silenced those doubts with a strong spring.

"A lot of colleges looked at my height and a lot of them thought that since I was short, not too much could go my way," Conner said. "I just get out there and play ball and do what I can do, and to me, size doesn't matter. I can jump and I can play a little bit of everything. I can hit. I can run. I can do a lot of stuff a tall person can do."

Conner said he doesn't hold it against Ole Miss that the Rebels were deliberate in their evaluation process. However, does admit that he was surprised when an offer arrived from Ole Miss.

"They sent it to me in the mail," Conner said. "They said a lot of stuff about how they hoped I would join their family. I'm really interested in Ole Miss, too. I'm looking at them. I'm keeping them in mind. A lot right now is going on. I might be able to commit to them."

The "a lot" going on right now is Auburn. The Tigers have done a superb job recruiting Conner, and they hold a lead right now. Ole Miss is second. Mississippi State, which has also offered, is third.

"Auburn is ahead right now," Conner said. "The school is not so big. Everybody at the school and the coaching staff treats me like family. The football players treat me like family. I'm supposed to go over there sometime in June. The coaches have told me a lot about Auburn. He said it wasn't too big and it wasn't too small. He said it's lovely. He said if there was anywhere he could go, he would stay at Auburn. It's not a big town but the crowd and the fans, there's so many of them."

While Auburn leads, Conner admits that Ole Miss could close the gap quickly. The Rebels offer something the Tigers simply can't - proximity. Of course, Auburn offers something Ole Miss can't - distance from home. Confused? Well, so is Conner.

"Ole Miss is really close to home," Conner said. "My goal was to get away a little bit, but when I went over there (to Oxford, some 21 miles from Batesville) for Junior Day, I had changed my mind about getting away from home. Then Auburn came along and offered me a full scholarship and they are farther away from home."

Conner has never been to Auburn. He'll visit sometime in June. He also plans to camp at Ole Miss. He might camp at Mississippi State, but it's clear the Bulldogs are falling out of what's becoming a two-team race.

"I think I'm going to wait until signing day," Conner said. "It depends on how everything flows."

Plus, there are more pressing issues these days. South Panola lost at Lafayette in a spring game earlier this month, and the Tigers' destiny is being doubted for the first time in half a decade.

"We're still going to be OK," Conner said. "We have to change some things on the offensive line. We're going to be OK."

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