The Ole Miss recruiting train is rocking and rolling this month. Matt Luke and his staff have been working diligently all Spring and Summer, hosting camps, scouting prospects, and visiting with their families and coaches. And it has obviously paid off as the Rebels are welcoming in their 22nd overall commit and the 11th in the month of June now that three-star athlete A.J. Finley has committed to the #MississippiMade movement.
The Mobile, Ala. native chose to commit to Luke and linebackers coach Jon Sumrall over other offers from Duke, Iowa, Purdue, Tennessee, and Wake Forest among others. Despite being ranked as the No. 81 running back in the country, Finley camped as a defensive back earlier this month and he tells David Johnson of the Ole Miss Spirit that he plans to play safety for the Rebels.
“I just felt like Ole Miss was my best fit,” said Finley. “I really liked the coaching staff. Those were the things that really made a difference.”
Finley’s primary recruiter to Ole Miss is linebackers coach Jon Sumrall.
”Coach Sumrall is a really cool guy. I like him. He’s the coach that I had the best relationship with throughout the recruiting process,” Finley shared.
Finley’s athleticism and frame will lend a hand in making the transition over to defense, but his prowess on offense won’t go unnoticed as he will still play some offense for St. Paul’s during his senior season.
“I’ll be starting at safety this year, but I’ll still play some offense,” he said.
The Rebs’ newest commit ran for 994 yards and seven touchdowns on 166 carries despite splitting time in the backfield with a teammate. He also caught 16 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown.
How does he fit in?
As we mentioned above, Finley will play defensive back for the Rebels once he arrives in Oxford. At 6’2 and 180-pounds, he certainly has an ideal frame for a cornerback in the Southeastern Conference. On film, he is certainly capable of covering receivers outside on an island or in the slot as a safety. His speed is evident and with some added work on defense, he could definitely show up in Oxford ready to contribute not only on defense, but on special teams as well.
Finley’s high school coach, Steve Mask, told Ben Thomas of AL.com that he is a legitimate Power 5 athlete and has earned the right.
“We are going to work him in the secondary this spring and summer and get him schooled up there. Everyone loves his length. He has great hands and outstanding ball skills.”
“A.J. has made himself a Division I football player,” Mask said. “He’s a legit 4.5 (40) guy with high character and a great family. He’s getting a lot of college interest right now and he will get even more when folks watch him play on defense this spring, summer and fall.”
The No. 46 player in Alabama will bring some versatility to Wesley McGriff’s defense, giving him the choice possibly to either play centerfield at safety or a cover corner for Jason Jones. He is the 6th commit for the secondary and will be in contention with plenty in the 2019 class and last year’s class to step up and take open spots at safety and cornerback.