Thursday, October 25, 2012
Juco Spotlight: Northeast Miss.
By Dave Hooker
Good friend or not. Fellow Louisiana native or not. Ed Orgeron had to go.
That's just how Ricky Smither operates. The head football coach at Boonesville (Miss.) Northeast still smiles when he remembers when the Southern California coach stopped by to recruit a prospect who was already committed to Alabama.
(From left) Nick Thomason, Logan Stokes and Lavon Hooks of Northeast Mississippi.
It was nothing personal. Just business for Smither. Committed players stay committed. Placed players stick with the school they originally signed with. It's practically code in Mississippi when it comes to junior colleges. So, Orgeron was asked as politely as possible to leave.
"I had to," said Smither with a smile in his south Louisiana draw. "He said, 'Coach, you know I'm going to see him. You know me.' I said, 'Ed, if you go to that dorm, I'm going to have you escorted off. We don't do that. We don't work like that.' "
Orgeron decided to avoid being removed and the prospect ended up where he was originally committed. Now, Smither, who is from Thibodeaux, La., has taken the same approach with tight end Logan Stokes, who committed to LSU this summer. Afterwards, Alabama came calling. That didn't get too far. Smither shut down the Crimson Tide like no team has been able to do this season.
Stokes won't be the last prospect Smither will have to defend. The next will likely be Lavon Hooks, a former basketball player who has turned into a standout interior defensive lineman.
"We moved him inside and, man, he has just been blowing it up," Smither said. "He's playing tackle and nose guard for us. Very, very athletic kid."
Smither said every school in the SEC besides Alabama and LSU has inquired about Hooks, but most of his double-digit offers have come from smaller schools. That's likely to change when a bigger school realizes it needs immediate help on the defensive line.
Defensive tackle tends to be where junior college players can provide some of the biggest, quickest impacts at four-year schools. Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Tennessee have shown the most recent interest in Hooks.
Northeast's next big-man on campus will likely be Anthony Kibler. Well, in fact, he already is. The 6-foot-6, 350-pound offensive lineman should be eligible in 2014 after off-field issues led to his dismissal from South Florida. If Kibler can prove such discretions are behind him and he can drop some weight, Smither said he'll likely be a top junior college prospect as well.
"He's had some issues," Smither said. "A lot of people are just waiting to see how he responds. He's an NFL guy."
Smither should know. He coached NFL standout receiver Julio Jones in high school and has been around plenty of big-time college and professional-level prospects. Here are his thoughts on two more prospects at Northeastern who have received college interest:
Jonathan Harrison -- Smither seems completely shocked when asked why Harrison doesn't have more college interest. "He's a 6-5 kid that's killing it.. I think he's averaging about 46 (yards per punt)," Smither said. Harrison said he believes more four-year schools are using walk-ons to handle kicking. Still, there should be a place for Harrison somewhere, Smither said.
Nick Thomason -- It's clear that Thomason is one of Smither's favorite players. The coach describes the linebacker as tough and hard-nosed. So far, Thomason has offers from smaller schools. The most notables are Memphis, Alabama-Birmingham and Western Kentucky. Height seems to be the problem. Thomason is just 6-1 and might have maxed out his frame at 230 pounds. Growing up in Muscle Shoals, Ala., Thomason has said it's his dream to play in the SEC.