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Thursday, December 13, 2012
Notebook: Alabama-Mississippi game

By Greg Ostendorf

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- It's just two days until the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game and both teams practiced both in the morning and the afternoon to get ready for Saturday. For the Mississippi squad, a certain defensive lineman continued to dominate and their most dynamic athlete returned to practice.

Alabama's two big stars did their talking on the field but remained quiet off it when asked about recruiting.

 

Jones makes a case for game's top DL

In this year’s Alabama-Mississippi game, the Alabama squad boasts an impressive defensive line with a pair of ESPN 300 prospects, Dee Liner and Darius Paige. But it’s Mississippi who has the kid who everybody has been talking about -- defensive end Chris Jones.

“I guess it’s the size and the speed,” Jones said. “They say I’m a humungous guy.”

Humungous isn’t an exaggeration for a guy who’s nearly 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, but even with the size and the freakish athletic ability, Jones is still flying under the radar a bit. That’s only helped him stay hungry.

“When you’re playing football, everyone plays to prove a point,” Jones said. “I feel like people underlook me, so I play to prove a point. I want to prove that I’m the best, so I try to do the best whatever I do.”

After this week, his name is likely to get out. If not now, it will surely get out when Jones goes down to Florida in January to compete in the Under Armour All-America Game. He’s no longer intimidated by the other higher-ranked players.

The coaching staff for the Mississippi squad is just happy to have him on their side.

“His physique, his physical abilities, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Clinton (Miss.) High School head coach Judd Boswell said. “He’s a freak in every aspect of the ball game. He’s smart, big, long, fast and rangy. He’s a kid that’s got the potential to put his hand down on Sunday, not Saturdays. He’s special.”

At this point, Jones is committed to Mississippi State. He gave a verbal pledge to the Bulldogs over a year ago and has stuck to that decision throughout the recruiting process.

“They’re an amazing group,” Jones said. “I feel at home. I feel comfortable at Mississippi State. I like the program they got going on, the rebuilding process they got going on, Coach [Dan] Mullen and the staff.”

Other schools like Georgia and Miami (Fla) have reached out to Jones in recent weeks, but the number of interested schools could increase substantially after Saturday’s game.

Newsworthy: Foster, Liner not talking

At practice, Liner and Reuben Foster won’t stop talking. Whether it’s leading the team on the field or joking around off it, the two ESPN 150 stars have been the life of the party for the Alabama team.

It’s not always easy, but Foley head coach Todd Watson has enjoyed working with both prospects, especially Foster.

“He’s not a stranger now,” Watson said. “He’s a lot of fun, very personable kid and very football smart. He understands what’s going on, and he gets everybody around him to play better. That’s the mark of a good leader.”

However, off the field, it’s been a different story.

Liner hasn’t answered a single recruiting question all week, and Foster stopped talking to the media after the first day.

Not long ago, both recruits were committed to Auburn. That changed when former head coach Gene Chizik and his staff were let go. Foster has already decommitted and plans to explore his options. Liner is still committed, but Alabama continues to make a strong push.

Trending: Moore back at practice

The most explosive player all week for the Mississippi team has been running back Kailo Moore. The Mississippi State commitment turned heads with his performance, but he injured his groin Wednesday, leaving him questionable for the game.

During Thursday’s afternoon session, Moore was back on the field, taking reps, and it looked like he never missed a beat. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound athlete is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball.

If he can’t go on Saturday, ESPN 150 safety Antonio Conner took a turn at running back at Thursday’s practice.

“Kailo went down, and coach asked me if I was willing to play running back,” Conner said. “I told him anything to help out the team, so that’s what I had to do today. It’s real good. You’ve got to see the whole and have great vision.”

Thursday awards

Ballhawk: CB Marquez White (Committed to Florida State)

After getting beat by Earnest Robinson on multiple occasions Wednesday, White bounced back with three interceptions in the morning practice on Thursday. He added another one for good measure in the afternoon session.

Mr. Versatile: WR Nate Andrews (Committed to Minnesota)

Last week, Andrews committed to Minnesota as a cornerback. At practice, he’s played primarily on defense either at corner or at safety, but on Thursday, he moved over to wide receiver and caught a long touchdown pass from quarterback Jeremy Johnson.

Trash talker: DE Chris Jones (Committed to Mississippi State)

Jones knows he’s talented, and he wasn’t afraid to let the Mississippi offensive line hear it when he beat them on Thursday. It helps when you’re 6-foot-7, 260 pounds. It was all in good fun, though.

Fashion star: DT Darius Paige (Committed to Alabama)

All week, Paige has been sporting some multi-colored socks with bright orange and purple cleats. He says he had to break them out for the all-star game. On Thursday, he went the holiday-themed socks with snowmen on them.