With the conclusion of the state championships in Oxford and the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Classic in Hattiesburg, all eyes will turn to the Coast on Saturday to round out the prep football season.
Gulfport's Milner Stadium will play host to the 67th annual Bernard Blackwell All-Star Football Classic, which features some of the top talent from across the Magnolia State.
Last year's game was a 48-14 domination by the South. Some of the game's standouts, like Pascagoula's Jaylen Smith, went on to play immediately at the Division 1 level. Others, like South MVP Gardner Minshew, starred at the junior college level in 2015.
This year's rosters appear to once again boast plenty of next-level potential
2. Coast representatives
South Mississippi is well represented with 14 players, St. Martin coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead and Yellow Jacket trainers Dylan Greene and Kodi Valore. Athlete Tyler Polk (St. Martin) and quarterback Le'Charles Pringle (Gautier) will help lead an offensive unit that also features running back Deon Cole (Gulfport), offensive linemen Sam LeFebvre (Pearl River Central), Jimon Dixon (St. Martin), Bruno Cantu (Ocean Springs), and tight end Vincent Milanese (Ocean Springs). Defensively, the South will feature defensive backs Ty Peters (D'Iberville), Jakwaize Walker (Pascagoula), Jacquelle Green (D'Iberville) and Alton Conerly (Gulfport), linebackers Barry Leonardi (D'Iberville) and Colton Brannan (George County), and defensive lineman Jordon Beaton (Harrison Central).
3. College commitments
The game will feature five current football commitments, with others continuing to be courted by colleges. Green is committed to Louisville, Aberdeen receiver Jerrick Orr is a Memphis pledge, Meridian lineman Julius Turner is committed to Louisiana Tech, and Southern Miss has two players in Beaton and Crystal Springs receiver Jeriko Morris.
Although the game falls on a recruiting dead period for Division 1 programs, expect to see just about every junior college in the state repre
sented during the week's practices and Saturday's game as the programs look to secure the state's best talent for the 2016 season.
4. No-fly zone
South Mississippi's Green, Walker, Conerly and Peters will make it difficult on the North's quarterbacks to go down field. A North defensive back to keep an eye on is Houston's Denver McQuary. The Mississippi State baseball commit can flat out lock down a receiver. This season he pulled down seven interceptions, giving him 33 for his career -- three more than Steve McNair (Mount Olive) and Terrell Buckley (Pascagoula)'s state record.
5. Terry snubbed
While the rosters are full of high-end talent, one omission from South Mississippi was Long Beach receiver Trevor Terry.
The 6-foot-1 receiver ranked among the Coast's leaders this year with 1,234 yards receiving -- good enough for eighth among seniors in the state -- with 62 receptions and 14 touchdowns. All that despite Long Beach being forced to deploy five quarterbacks. Of the four receivers on the South's roster, Morris is a USM commit and Meridian's Daniel Crowell was previously committed to Ole Miss. Wayne County's RaMeik Wallace boasts 58 receptions for 1,309 yards and 14 touchdowns. Collins' Dorrean McLaurin had 27 receptions for 616 yards and 10 touchdowns. Currently, Terry, who picked up an offer from Alcorn State on Monday to go along with a host of junior college offers, is listed as an alternate. All things considered, he should be representing the Bearcats on Saturday.
6. Not done yet
D'Iberville's Jacques Turner isn't done with his prep career just yet. After recording five tackles, including a 9-yard tackle-for-loss, in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game last weekend, Turner is set to play in another all-star game. Thursday, the senior Warrior is headed to Dallas to participate in the Blue-Gray game, which will be played Saturday at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium.
"Everything I participate in I view as an opportunity," Turner said Monday. "I look at it as just preparing me for college, playing against some of the best in the nation.
"I just want to enjoy myself. It's going to be my last high school game so I want to make the most of it."
7. Home sweet home
Turner, a Southern Miss commit, said he enjoyed playing in front of the crowd at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
"I thought I was going to be nervous at first but I really wasn't," he said. "It felt like home."
Turner said he already had his in-home visit with safeties coach Pete Golding and defensive line coach Justin Roberts. Turner's commitment is solid; the visit was mainly so his parents could ask questions.
While Turner knows where he'll play next season, plenty of players in the Miss/Al. game have yet to solidify their college commitments. Turner said -- no surprise -- there was plenty of recruiting amongst the players.
"Everybody was kind of getting at the uncommitted guys," he said, laughing. "That was going to happen regardless."
8. 'He's a beast'
Speaking of uncommitted players, Noxubee County's Jeffery Simmons is considered Mississippi's top talent in the 2016 class and he has yet to pledge to a school. Mississippi State, Alabama and Ole Miss are hot in pursuit of the strong defensive end. Turner vouched for Simmons' ranking after practicing along side the 6-foot-4, 275-pound standout.
"Man, Jeffery is a beast," Turner said. "I thought he was all hype until I got to watch him. He's legit."
Simmons tied for the Mississippi Lead with seven tackles.
9. The (Other) Patrick's Picks
For entertainment purposes only, and in rapid fire ... Alcorn State represents the SWAC proudly with a 10-point win over North Carolina A&T in the Celebration Bowl ... New Mexico doesn't have a shot against Arizona (-9, courtesy MGM Resorts International) in the New Mexico Bowl. Wildcats by 14 ... Utah (-2 1/2) and Kyle Whittingham hold a 6-3 head-to-head advantage over Bronco Mendenhall. He'll send the UVA coach out a loser in his final game with BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl ... Frank Solich and Ohio can't slow Appalachian State (-7 1/2) in the Camellia Bowl. Mountaineers win big ... San Jose State (-3) will dampen Georgia State's surprising run in 2015 with a close victory in the Cure Bowl ... Add Saturday's New Orleans Bowl against Louisiana Tech (-2) as the latest impressive win for Arkansas State. Red Wolves by 10 ... USM fans saw first hand what Western Kentucky (-2 1/2) is capable of. Expect more of the same Monday against South Florida in the Miami Beach Bowl ... Akron extends its winning streak to five games Tuesday against Utah State (-6 1/2) in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl ... Temple (-1) bounces back from its 11-point defeat to Houston with a close three-point win over Toledo in the Boca Raton (Fla.) Bowl ... and lastly, the South will win Saturday's Bernard Blackwell All-Star Classic for a fifth consecutive time, 45-21.
As always, thanks for reading.
Patrick Ochs, a Sun Herald sports reporter, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at PatrickOchs.