247Sports was on the road last week, checking in at eight high schools and four junior colleges in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. Here is the latest on some of the top prospects in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 classes in Part 1 of our report from the road.
The recruitment of long-time Ole Miss commit C.J. Hampton is not done yet.
Tough decision ahead for Hampton
MERIDIAN, Miss. - Top247 safety C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian) has been committed to Ole Miss for over 15 months, over seven months longer than any other prospect on the Rebels commitment list for the 2014 class, and longer than all but five members of the 2013 class already on campus. But since then, his recruitment has been anything but over.
“After I committed, a lot of coaches saw me play and offers started shooting in from everywhere,” Hampton said. “Being a Mississippi kid from around the area, I always thought highly of Ole Miss.”
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound defensive back has taken at least five visits to Alabama, including games this season against Colorado State and last weekend’s 25-0 win over Ole Miss. The message from the Crimson Tide coaching staff to Hampton is clear: they want him playing for Alabama next season.
“They are very interested in developing a relationship with me and my family, they think highly of me and I am the No. 1 defensive back on their board,” Hampton said. “It is a really big plus to hear that, because it shows my parents and my coaching staff has brought me up right.”
Hampton visited Alabama with Laurence Jones over the summer. The two Top247 safeties often discuss their recruitment together, including the possibility of playing in the same secondary in college.
“We always talk about the programs we are considering,” Hampton said. “Hootie with Alabama and LSU, and me being an Ole Miss commit but still checking out my options. I feel what he is going through because although I am committed to one place at the same time I am trying to make sure that place is 100 percent right for me. We talk about it a lot and we would love to play together, with him at strong safety and me at free safety. That would look very nice. We will see how it goes.”
Hampton says his mom helps him evaluate the academics of each program, and his father, a former player at West Alabama, assists in looking at the football side of things. Hampton says the Crimson Tide coaching staff has sold him on the chance to play early.
Hampton feels he will have a final decision before the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
“My father and I look at depth charts, and at Alabama they have five safeties,” Hampton said. Two of them are seniors and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is supposed to leave early. That would be a great situation for me to go in and compete, at least for the two-deep. It is set up pretty well there.”
While there has been no change regarding his commitment to the Rebels, Hampton admits the possibility remains that if he does switch his decision, he will have to make a tough phone call.
“I have not even thought about making the call to Hugh Freeze to decommit, but if it came down to it, it would have to be a family decision that everyone is comfortable with,” Hampton said. “Right now I am just trying to handle Meridian football and I will worry about it later. It is never easy making a decision like this. It is important for not only the next four years, but possibly the next 40 years.”
The No. 2 prospect in Mississippi, Hampton feels the future is bright in Oxford.
“Ole Miss is a great place and on the rise,” Hampton said. “I think good things are going to happen there soon. Coach Hugh Freeze is a great recruiter, a great coach and he thinks very highly of me and my family. I talk to him a good bit and Ole Miss is a great school so there is nothing bad I can say about them.”
After his clearinghouse is settled in the next week, Hampton plans to start setting up official visits to Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Miami and Stanford. Two games he plans to check out are the Ole Miss game Oct. 12 vs Texas A&M and the Iron Bowl.
Stanford is intriguing to Hampton simply because of the doors opened by getting an education there.
“With a Stanford degree, you do not have anything to worry about in your career,” Hampton said. “There is nothing wrong with going out there to check it out because who knows you might see something that really catches your eye so I am really excited about making the trip.”
Schools pursuing Daron Payne will likely have to wait on a decision from the 2015 five-star DT.
Miami has produced several outstanding safeties over the years, including one of the all-time college greats.
“Sean Taylor is my favorite player ever and a lot of defensive backs came out of there,” Hampton said. “Just seeing how big and physical they are coming out of there, I know they did not go in there like that.”
The opportunity to start early at Auburn is hinted by Hampton, as he said he and his father are aware of certain college staffs wanting to bring in their own guys as they implement a new defensive scheme. The Tigers also have an advantage due to ties on Hampton’s high school coaching staff.
“Auburn is a great place that I have visited a few times and spent time with Coach Gus Malzahn and Coach Cheese (Charlie Harbison), the safety coach,” Hampton said. “The good thing about that is he coached my defensive back coach Dexter McCleon at Clemson and got him drafted. They have a great relationship together, so that makes me have a great relationship with him also.”
Hampton feels he will have a final decision before the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Hampton could find the right school during an official visit.
“Who knows, but with me it is not just C.J. making a decision on his own,” Hampton said. “My family is part of this process too and my parents see some things I do not see.”
No rush for 2015 five-star DT
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Alabama holds the top spot for 2015 five-star Daron Payne (Birmingham, Ala./Shades Valley) right now, but look for Payne to take his official visits and possibly make his decision late into his senior year.
Alabama, Auburn and Florida State are among the schools at the top for 2015 RB Kerryon Johnson.
“When I commit, I want to pick a place where I know I will be treated well,” Payne said. “Really I just need to take the time to see what my mom thinks before I make my decision. She wants to know I will be taken care of and in good hands.”
Payne says the Alabama coaches have informed his mother that they would treat him like a son. As for this season, he sees the Crimson Tide taking home a third straight BCS title.
“I like how they work hard and win championships,” Payne said. “I think they are going to win the national championship this year too.”
Auburn and Clemson are pushing Alabama for the top spot with the No. 1 prospect in Alabama for 2015.
“Auburn just got a whole bunch of new coaches, so things could change for them,” Payne said. “Coach Rodney Garner is a great coach and he has let me know they want me there and need me there. I see Montravius Adams playing now and that shows me if I put in the work that could be me.
“Clemson has a nice coaching staff and great players right now. Marion Hobby is recruiting me there and I enjoyed visiting for the Georgia game. It was really nice out there.”
Payne hopes to visit Ole Miss soon too and learn more about the Rebels.
Early decision for elite ATH?
LSU leads for 2015 Top247 safety Jamal Peters.
MADISON, Ala. - While class of 2015 Top247 prospect Kerryon Johnson (Madison, Ala./Madison Academy) admits it is still early on in the process, he also says he could make his decision before spring. Right now, Alabama, Auburn and Florida State are recruiting him the hardest.
Auburn is recruiting him as a running back. Alabama is kind of iffy – they have mentioned running back and safety. That could be a deal-breaker for Johnson.
“It would definitely be a harder choice to play offense, but I am open to anything,” Johnson said. “ It helps the schools that like me at running back right now, because if I had two schools at the top and only one really wanted me at running back, that would probably tilt things in their favor because that is my dream to play there. Having that opportunity right in front of you is hard to turn down. But my coaches always tell me to keep an open mind because you never know what might happen.”
Heading into his visit to Alabama Saturday, Johnson said Auburn stood out the most.
“Auburn stands out the most just because I have been able to get down there for a game, but that could change or even out soon,” Johnson said. “It is pretty tight, but they have made a push for me early on.”
It looks like an out-of-state SEC program could join the top group if they decided to extend a scholarship to the four-star athlete.
“Georgia is definitely an offer I would love to have,” Johnson said. “Clearly they know how to run the football and they have a history of running backs there. That offense they run is downhill and I would definitely look forward to playing in that scheme.”
Georgia has sent him mail and Johnson hopes to get in touch with them soon.
“An offer would put them up there In my top group and then if I visited I could base it off that,” Johnson said. “I like the way Georgia plays. They are an SEC program with a history of good teams.”
LSU leads for Top247 safety
BASSFIELD, Miss. – Although class of 2015 Top247 Jamal Peters (Bassfield, Miss./Bassfield) did not get the optimal experience during his visit to LSU two weeks ago, the rainy weather did not hinder his interest in the Tigers.
"LSU is no. 1 for me and Ole Miss is second,” Peters said. “LSU has had Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne and Patrick Peterson, and I feel like I could follow in their footsteps and become a Tiger,” Peters said. “Ole Miss has been recruiting me the hardest though.”
Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Miami and Oklahoma State are showing interest in the 6-3, 200-pound safety, but there is one program he hopes targets him next.
“I really want an Alabama offer,” Peters said. “They are the No.1 team in the nation and they work hard.”
Peters plans to visit Ole Miss on Oct. 12 for the Texas A&M game, and says he could be close to making his commitment.
“Want to make my decision by the end of the football season,” Peters said.
- Class of 2015 Top247 lineman Juantavious Johnson (Lincoln, Ala./Lincoln) is still waiting for offer No. 2, and like several other top prospects in Alabama, the 6-2, 330-pound junior hopes it comes from Georgia. Johnson said he “would love to see what their program is like and I could see myself playing there.”
- Rangy 2016 linebacker Jeremiah Moon (Hoover, Ala./Hoover) attended the Auburn game versus Mississippi State earlier this season, and was at Alabama Saturday for the Ole Miss game. Like several of his teammates, the 6-4, 190-pound sophomore has an early offer from Mississippi State. He camped at Alabama over the summer and seemed to really enjoy it.
- Sleeper 2014 defensive end Rayjon Simes (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stone Mountain) has picked up offers from Kentucky, Louisville, Marshall, South Alabama and Virginia Tech. The 6-6, 230-pound defensive end, in his first season of football, is leaning toward Louisville at the moment.
- Junior athlete J’Mar Smith (Meridian, Miss./Meridian) has an early offer from Mississippi State. The 6-2, 205-pound prospect hopes to earn offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan and Ohio State.
- When coaches from programs like Georgia and Ole Miss came to see Top247 offensive lineman Jordan Sims (Homewood, Ala./Homewood) in the spring, they left talking about 2015 offensive tackle John Yarbrough. According to his head coach, the 6-foot-5, 268-pound junior is ahead of where Sims was at this time last year.
- UCF commit blowing up: On Friday, Mike Rogers (Smyrna, Ga./Cambell) rushed for 135 yards on 21 carries and scored two touchdowns in a 23-20 loss to South Cobb. He also had a 75-yard kickoff return. His stats this season thru five games: On offense he has 80 carries for 891 yards and 13 touchdowns, two 2-point conversions and two catches for 39 yards. His 82 total points leads Cobb County. On defense Rogers has 46 tackles (29 solo 17 assist), a blocked kick, one sack, four passes broken up, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three interception. Vanderbilt offered on Thursday and Georgia continues to evaluate Rogers, whose senior evaluation by 247Sports has updated him to four-star status.