High School Sports

Gulfport football star cuts his list to 3 SEC schools, but there’s a leader in the hunt

Derick Hall has a maturity that is well beyond his 17 years and that’s shown up during his recruitment as a top prep football prospect.

A long list of respected college programs have lined up for his services over the last year and first-year Gulfport head coach John Archie has watched his star linebacker navigate the process with ease.

“He’s handled it like an adult,” Archie said Wednesday.

With each visit, Hall has returned to a list he keeps in his room that helps him decide which schools are the best fit for him.

“I have questions that I ask and I come back and check off,” Hall said. “It’s definitely narrowing it down. It’s getting close to time to wrap this thing up.”

After cutting the list to eight schools in March, Hall now has three that are in still in the hunt — Mississippi State, Florida and Auburn.

While Hall says that all three are under consideration, Auburn is the clear leader at the moment.

“Every time I go there, it feels like family,” Hall said. “It’s the same thing with Mississippi State, but Auburn has a great engineering program. It’s one of the best in the country. They have 90 percent of people come out and get a great job. Education is huge. My mom preaches that.”

Hall visited Auburn on Sept. 14 for the LSU game. The home team fell 22-21 on a last-second field goal, but that didn’t dampen his interest.

“Man, it was amazing,” he said. “Seeing the Eagle fly around the stadium and seeing the atmosphere, their fans are really behind the Auburn family.”

Hall also has visits scheduled for Mississippi State and Florida this season.

The MSU staff will try to cut into Auburn’s lead when the linebacker makes the trip to Starkville to watch Saturday’s home game against Florida.

Hall is hoping the Gators and Bulldogs continue to pursue him and he has told coaches that.

“Just because I name a leader, I don’t want you to change on me,” Hall said while relaying his message to coaches at MSU and Florida. “They’re still in the running.”

Hall said he expects to make a verbal commitment at some point in October with plans to graduate in December and enroll for college classes in January.

He was one of several standouts on a stout Gulfport defense last year, but his 6-foot-5, 220-pound stature and a 40-yard dash time of 4.6 seconds stood out to college coaches during his junior year.

Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke was the first to offer in late December, sparking a long list of schools to show up on the Gulfport campus to talk with Hall.

As a senior, Hall has begun to fulfill the potential that coaches saw a year ago.

After making 34 tackles and 2 ½ sacks in 2017, Hall already has 34 tackles and three sacks through five games this year.

He points to his ability as a pass rusher as a place where he’s made the most progress this season.

“(My first step) was bad last year,” Hall said. “This year, I initiate and get downhill, ready to make a play.”

Hall was a standout forward for the Gulfport High hoops squad last season, but he will skip his final season on the basketball court to get ready to start his college football career.

Gulfport stands at 4-1 overall and 1-0 in Region 4-6A play ahead of Friday’s home game against Pascagoula at Milner Stadium.

Patrick Magee: 228-896-2333, @Patrick_Magee