With the week of practice in preparation for the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic winding down, each team is better able to gauge where it stands as a squad. After Thursday's practice, one of the two quarterbacks on the Mississippi squad - Laurel (Miss.) West Jones signal-caller Ben Stevens - talked about the team that surrounds him.
"First of all, we have a good offensive line and once they block for us, we just have to go," Stevens said. "We have the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers to make plays."
While Stevens is impressed by all of the talent around him, he admits that the wide receivers are a special treat for him as a pro-style quarterback.
"It is nice being able to throw to those guys," Stevens said. "If you just put it in a place where the defender can't get it they are going to do the rest for you and make something happen. They can also go up and get it. They are just a real talented bunch."
Through six practices, Stevens feels he has established a good rapport with his teammates.
"I feel good with all of them," Stevens said. "I think we understand what we are supposed to be doing. We seem to be working well together."
While Stevens is impressed with his offensive weapons, he admits that the defense he has faced in practice is going to present some great challenges for Alabama on Saturday in Ladd Peebles Stadium.
"Almost all of the secondary is committed to SEC schools, most of the linebackers and defensive line too," Stevens said. "They are just big and fast. It is a whole different level than what I am used to."
Alabama looking to defend its crown
Alabama's roster has two quarterbacks who are heading to traditional powerhouses. Athens (Ala.) quarterback Stephen Rivers and Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul quarterback Jacob Coker will lead a loaded Yellowhammer State roster into Saturday's game.
With the practices for Alabama heavily centering around implementation of offensive and defensive schemes, Coker feels they are close to being fully prepared for their all-star showcase.
"It is tough to get everything done in three or four days," Coker said. "I think we are getting there. It isn't going to be perfect, but we are going to try as best we can."
The Alabama squad, like Mississippi, is loaded at the wide receiver position. For the Florida State commitment, having all those weapons at his disposal is something he isn't taking for granted.
"It is nice because anything you throw towards them they catch," Coker said. "They are great players. I am looking forward to playing along with them on Saturday."
He isn't only impressed with his offensive teammates, he also sees a strong defense that can put up a challenge.
"I see a lot of speed and quickness," Coker said. "They are real big. They are like nothing I have seen before. They are going to present a good challenge."
Laurel (Miss.) West Jones quarterback Ben Stevens is getting interest from Arkansas State and Southeast Louisiana.
Philadelphia (Miss.) linebacker C.J. Johnson, a Mississippi State commitment, plans to take official visits to Southern Miss (Jan. 14th), Ole Miss (Jan. 21st), and LSU (Jan. 28th). He contends that he remains firm to Mississippi State despite his visit plans.
While many commitments are talking about other visits this week in Mobile, one prospect made it clear after practice on Thursday that he was firm in his commitment and didn't intend to take any other visits. That prospect was West Point (Miss.) athlete Justin Cox, a Mississippi State commitment.
On Friday, each team will practice just once in the morning. Alabama will be at Lipscomb Stadium and Mississippi will be at UMS Wright.
After lunch on Friday, the teams will participate in the Salvation Army Red Kettle Challenge where players will be with the Red Kettles at locations around Mobile trying to raise funds for the needy. It is a competition between the two squads to see who can raise more money for a good cause.
On Friday evening, the teams will be honored at an All-Star Honors Banquet.