MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Many of the top prospects in the states of Alabama and Mississippi gathered Monday afternoon at the Cramton Bowl for check-in of the 26th annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game. As is usually the case, recruiting took center stage Monday with practices set to being Tuesday morning.
Despite attention from Auburn, Tennessee and Alabama, it's not a given that Top247 running back Johnathan Ford, who is committed to Vanderbilt, will take visits anywhere else.
Ford’s stock soaring
Running back Johnathan Ford (New Hope, Ala.) was a terrific early find by Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and staff. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound explosive playmaker committed to the Commodores last April, but a sensational senior campaign has led to the Top247 prospects stock soaring since the end of the season.
“Mississippi State, Tennesee, Bama and Auburn have been calling,” Ford said. “I talked to (new Vols head coach) Butch Jones today. He said he really loved my tape, I was really explosive and he said he needs a guy like me to play on his team as a true freshman. They offered me and are trying to get me to visit, but we haven’t set anything up.”
Like Tennessee, Auburn’s newly hired-head coach Gus Malzahn quickly made contact with Ford and thanks to the NCAA lifting restrictions on college coaches attending practices, the Tigers staff will get a chance to see him compete in this setting this week.
“I talked to (Malzahn) late last week,” Ford said. “He was talking to me about the offense and how he could implement me. He said they are going to be down here (Montgomery) this week.”
If the interest from Tennessee and Auburn wasn’t enough, defending national champion Alabama is also calling with the intent to set up an official visit.
“They (the Crimson Tide) want me to come up on an official visit,” Ford said. “(Alabama assistant and 247Sports National Recruiter of the Year for the 2012 cycle) Jeremy Pruitt has been the one mainly recruiting me. They want me to visit on Jan. 11, I think.”
While the interest is there, the next step is convincing Ford to take the visit.
New Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn contacted four-star running back Johnathan Ford, who is committed to Vanderbilt, late last week.
“I’m still talking things over with my parents and stuff (about taking visits),” he said. “I’m still seeing where I want to go, I mean it’s the next four years of my life. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Even if other programs get Ford on campus, they will have to overcome a very strong relationship Ford and family have with Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin.
“It’s a great relationship,” Ford said. “He still has that same energy since the first day he recruited me. We just have that father figure type of relationship. He’s been staying on me with that energy he brings day by day.”
Ford is the No. 241 ranked prospect in the 2013 class with a rating of 91 (four stars) by 247Sports. He has a recruiting industry-generated 247Composite rating of .8622, which translates to three stars.
Shumpert has one visit set
One of the top remaining uncommitted prospects in the Southeast is Ashton Shumpert (Tupelo, Miss.). The 6-foot-2, 212-pound safety/running back prospect recently wrapped up a scintillating senior campaign that ended with Gatorade Player of the Year honors in the Magnolia State. He is now turning his attention fully to recruiting.
“Well right now, I’m still looking at everybody that is looking at me,” he said. “I’m taking it pretty slow. I have one visit set for Mississippi State, Jan. 18. I’m also talking to Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Georgia and maybe Memphis. Ole Miss may be Jan. 25.”
Shumpert, who many believe will stay in-state at the end of the day, said he remains in the relationship building stages with his area recruiters.
Top247 prospect Ashton Shumpert is likely an in-state battle between Mississippi State and Ole Miss, but Vanderbilt is in the mix as well.
“At State, I talk to (Bulldogs assistant Scott Sallach,” Shumpert said. “Since he’s not from down here, when he comes to visit I show him a little bit about my school and life and everything. We have gotten to know each other well. I talk to (Rebels assistant) Matt Luke at Ole Miss. We have a great relationship. He tries to get to know me more every time he visits, and me the same.”.
Among the out-of-state suitors, Vanderbilt appears to have the best chance to pull the upset.
“I talked to Vanderbilt last week,” Shumpert said. “I went to camp there over the summer, and I watched how (Vandy assistant) John Donovan coached and I liked him a lot.”
If Shumpert currently has a favorite, he wasn’t tipping his hand on Monday afternoon.
“Nobody is out front right now,” he said. “It will probably come down to signing day now. It will probably be my mom and father that sit down with me when I decide where I’m going.”
Shumpert is the No. 164 ranked prospect in the 2013 class with a rating of 93 (four stars) by 247Sports. He has a 247Composite rating of .9120, which translates to four stars. Shumpert totaled more than 2,000 all-purpose yards in 2012 to go along with 64 tackles and two interceptions.
Tough, in-state decision for Moore
The most heated in-state battle in the state of Mississippi in the 2013 class is speedy running back Kailo Moore (Rosedale, Miss./West Boliver) The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder with 10.41 100-meter speed remains committed to Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs will have a fight on their hands all the way up to signing day.
“Recruiting is picking back up,” Moore said. “Everyone knows I’m committed to Mississippi State, but everyone is still recruiting me. I’ve still been talking to a lot of coaches, but I’m still committed to Mississippi State. I’ve been talking to Mississippi State and Ole Miss the most. I’m going to take my visit to Mississippi State on Jan. 18 and Ole Miss on Jan. 25.”
For Moore, who is talking to both coaching staffs multiple times on a weekly basis, part of his decision will be his role and position at each program.
“Ole Miss wants to move me out in the slot a little more than Mississippi State. They want to use me like they used Jeff Scott, which would be nice,” Moore said. (Bulldogs head coach) Dan Mullen said he wants to bulk me up some and let me tote the rock like I’m doing right now in high school, so I like that a lot too. I want to be the tailback. I’ve been playing it since the eighth grade, that’s what I know and that’s what I am.”
While Moore won’t rule out the possibility of an out-of-state program getting into the mix, it looks like a two-horse race and a decision that Moore will likely make
on his own away from everyone he knows.
“Well, I haven’t just decided for sure, but right now it’s Mississippi State and Ole Miss,” he said. “My mom talks to the coaches all the time, she knows both staffs, she trusts both staffs which I like to hear her say that, and now I’m just weighing it out. I think I’m going to have to get away for a weekend and figure out where I want to be because I love both schools. I love Mississippi State and am committed to them, and Ole Miss was my first love. It will be a hard decision, but I will go where I’m going to be most happy.”
Moore is the No. 77 overall prospect in the Top247 with a rating of 95 (four stars). He also has a 247Composite rating of .9390, which also translates to four stars.
The Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game gets the week of practice started on Tuesday morning with the game set for Saturday at noon at Cramton Bowl.