HATTIESBURG -- It was obvious that Jacques Turner felt right at home a mile away from the stadium he will be playing in the next four years. For the D'Iberville senior, the annual Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game is a chance to showcase his skills to the fans of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Two fans dressed in black and gold pointed at Turner as he went through Thursday's practice session at Hattiesburg High. They already knew about him and what he could do for head coach Todd Monken in the future.
Turner is playing defensive end and linebacker for Team Mississippi. He is one of several talented players on the roster. As impressive as Starkville's A.J. Brown or Oxford's D.K. Metcalf are at wide receiver, the defensive line has the biggest names in the recruiting rankings.
"It's a lot of fun. These guys, they're hilarious," Turner said Thursday as he walked off the field for the team bus. "The whole d-line, we're always sticking together. When we go to the hotel or the restaurants, we're always sticking together."
Wayne County's Benito Jones, who is committed to play at Ole Miss, Noxubee County's Jeffrey Simmons and Meridian's Raekwon Davis, who is an Alabama pledge, are just some of the others that make up the unit up front.
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"It's crazy, man. I never thought I would be playing with a d-line like this one right here," the 6-foot-3, 245-pound standout said. "You're probably going to see a couple of these d-linemen in the NFL."
Mississippi has lost seven straight games to Alabama. This is the first year that the game is being played in the Magnolia Statetate, and Turner said the goal was to stop the streak.
"We feel a lot of pressure on us with this game being in Mississippi. We got to put on for Mississippi," Turner said. "It's real exciting. I have a coach that played in the game not too long ago and he talks to me all the time about it. This game being in Mississippi means a lot. My family will all be here and I will be playing at Southern Miss next year. It's exciting to get to play at my next home for the next four years. I got to get the jitters out, but I'll be ready."
Southern Miss has turned things around under Monken, who was named Conference-USA Coach of the Year on Wednesday. The Golden Eagles won nine games this fall.
"I've seen what Coach Monken has done with his team and I think he can develop me the best as a player," Turner said. "Coach Monken is a good person overall. When he talks, I listen to him. He wants me at defensive end and I think that's the best place for me. I'm explosive off the ball. I like to rush the passer. It also takes a lot of pressure off me having a guy like (Simmons) on the other side like that."
Saturday's game at M.M. Roberts Stadium is set for a noon kickoff and will be televised on WLOX-ABC.