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Ole Miss football recruiting: Who makes our All-Mississippi team?

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Rivals.com has been ranking recruits for nearly 20 years. Here’s our all-time in-state team and what their prep careers were like.

Charles A. Smith-The Daily Journal

Last week, Rebel Grove’s Chase Parham and I took on the daunting task of putting together a team of our favorite Mississippians since 2002.

We now have nearly two full decades of data. During this time with no live sports, we decided to take a look back at Mississippi rankings during that time period. Last week, we put together the list of the most highly-ranked players at each position. This week, we gathered a squad of our favorite recruits, subjectively putting together a team based on a mixture of talent, story lines, production and more.

This team is comprised of names that we remember vividly as can’t-miss prospects who were destined to play at the highest level with big-time success. We also factored in putting together the best 11 on offense and the best 11 on defense.

Who did we miss? Who were some of your favorites since 2002? Let us know in the comments below.

Quarterback

The 4A Mr. Football star from Brookhaven did it all in 2004. Johns was responsible for 44 total touchdowns and 3,567 total yards for the state champions, throwing at least three touchdown passes in five games and going interception free the entire run through the playoffs. He won 4A titles in the 110-meter hurdles event (15.05) and discus (158-10) at 230-pounds.

Despite flaming out at Alabama, he is arguably one of the best athletes to ever come out of Mississippi.

Running Back

Akers is one of the biggest misses in Ole Miss history after he scorched the Magnolia State, running for 2,105 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior while also throwing for 3,128 yards and 31 touchdowns. The 2016 Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year was also named the U.S. Army Player of the Year after participating in their all-star event in San Antonio.

Barksdale might be up there with Johns in terms of athleticism. The South Panola legend was one of the biggest gets for the Rebels back in 2008 after he led the Tigers to yet another state title.

Which made it four-straight for him and USP. He was the 2007 Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year after destroying 5A football to the tune of 2,917 yards and 35 touchdowns. Oh, what could have been with Tig.

Wide Receiver

AJ, DK, and Donte are three of the greatest to ever do it in Mississippi. AJ joined Kyler Murray as the second prospect to play in both the Under Armour Baseball and Football All-American Games after he shocked everyone and signed with the Rebels over the hometown Bulldogs. “The Mayor” finished his final two seasons at Starkville High School with with 2,390 yards and 29(!) touchdowns. He is now entering his second season with the Tennessee Titans and is one of the NFL’s fastest rising stars after a legendary career in Oxford.

DK stayed home after his time at Oxford where he finished with 3,302 receiving yards and 49 touchdowns. Despite his gaudy numbers and measurables, a lot of recruiting analysts thought Metcalf lacked elite speed in order to be considered for the five-star recruit category. Then he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks. He is now right next to AJ as one of the NFL’s biggest attractions.

Last but certainly not least is Moncrief. At Raleigh High School, Donte did it all. The future Rebel made 21 catches for 441 yards and nine touchdowns while also passing for 365 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned two punts for touchdowns and made 48 tackles, four tackles for loss, and snagged four interceptions as a safety. Feed Moncrief paved the way for AJ and DK and countless others, giving the Rebels the nWo reputation it has today.

Offensive Line

Cross blew up on the recruiting trail, earning All-American Bowl honors and finishing as a five-star in the 2019 class. He is expected to compete for a starting job in Starkville in 2020. Coleman signed with Auburn after dominating in San Antonio at the U.S. Army All-American Game. Then, he dominated leukemia and earned his Master’s degree. He is now a San Francisco 49er.

Yet another USAAAG participant, Patterson signed with the Rebels after helping Petal to a 39-15 record and a 6-4 mark in the playoffs under his watch. including a 6A South State Championship in 2011 and a South State runner-up in 2012. Javon was drafted by the Colts in 2019. Mix was a member of the Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen, First-Team All-State, and a USAAA who signed with Auburn out of USP. After battling the depth chart on The Plains, he chose to transfer to Houston to conclude his college career. Rawlings was first team All-State and All-Metro at center for MRA and played damn near every offensive line position while in Oxford before anchoring the line at center.

Defensive Line

In our 3-4 defense, we went with some beef, some athleticism, and some speed. None fit those three descriptors better than our group here. Powe was a monster in high school, making 71 tackles and 14 sacks as a junior and 89 tackles and nine sacks as a senior, earning him both PARADE and USA Today All-American nods. He went on to do more of the same at nose guard in Oxford before being drafted by the Chiefs in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Chris Strong, another USP recruit, is one of the most impressive specimens I’ve seen live in a high school game. The 2006 Mr. Football was just an animal on the field for the Tigers, helping them keep their winning streak alive before it eventually ended at 89. He ultimately left the program at Ole Miss, but his talent was never a question.

Last on the list is one of the most impressive defensive linemen in the NFL today. The Yazoo City product finished his final two campaigns in high school with 207 tackles and 21 sacks. He was drafted 12th overall in 2012 by the Philadelphia Eagles and he’s made the Pro Bowl every year and won a Super Bowl, too.

Linebacker

This position group might be the most loaded one on this squad. Johnson is yet another USAAAG selection who flipped from Mississippi State to Ole Miss to join the Houston Nutt movement. CJ made 300(!) tackles his last seasons at Philadelphia before taking the SEC by storm at both linebacker and defensive end. He’s one of the most beloved players to wear the red and blue.

Dean, like Akers, was a tough loss for the Rebels who spurned them last minute on signing day in 2019 for Georgia. Dean won the 2018 High School Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top prep backer after he led the Eagles to the 6A title on the shoulders of 175 total tackles, 26 tackles for loss, seven sacks, three interceptions, and two forced fumbles. He is now one of Kirby Smart’s best linebackers in Athens.

Pack made his way to Oxford after a banner career at Oak Grove. In just three seasons in Hattieburg, Pack made 441 career tackles and rushed for 2,123 career yards and 42 touchdowns before signing with the Rebels and making the Freshman All-American team.

Lastly, Avery is one of Ole Miss’ biggest misses on the recruiting trail as Hugh Freeze had better things to do than sign a talented linebacker from Grenada who practically begged for an offer. In his final two seasons, he made 186 tackles and 9.5 sacks before signing with Memphis and destroying the AAC. He was taken in the 5th round by the Cleveland Browns and is now with Cox in Philly.

Cornerback

Pegues makes it yet ANOTHER USP alum here on the All-Mississippi team. The former Bulldog was named Gatorade Player of the Year after doing it all for the Tigers, running for 1,659 yards and 26 touchdowns and passing for 637 and six touchdowns. On defense, he made 51 tackles and five interceptions. Derek really blew up when he went to San Antonio for the USAAAG and put on a show, intercepting a pass and being named Defensive Player of the Game.

It’s an all USP room here with Brassell joining his Tiger brethren. Brassell, like Pegues, played both ways in Batesville, making 52 catches for 877 yards and 14 touchdowns while also pitching in 10 pass break-ups as a lock down corner who didn’t see much action his way. After an impressive freshman year in Oxford, he transferred to EMCC before making his return to Ole Miss. He has had stints in the CFL and IFL since his career ended as a Rebel.

Safety

This might as well be the All-South Panola team as we now meet our sixth former Tiger. Tony was a huge coup for the Rebels, beating out Alabama for the 6A Mississippi Defensive Player of the Year after he made 74 tackles, three interceptions, and defended 19 passes, leading South Panola to another state title. The UAAA was a freshman All-American at Ole Miss and was probably well on his way to NFL stardom before a knee injury derailed him briefly. TC is another, like CJ, that is beloved by everyone.

Woodson is probably one that folks had to do a double take since he isn’t as notable as the others. The former Alabama signee-turned North Alabama Lion won the 2009 Mississippi Defensive Player of the Year award after he made 95 tackles, five sacks, and three interceptions for the Conquistadors.

All-Purpose

We end things here with two Memphis Tigers. Both were passed over by most SEC schools but have since made a name for themselves in the AAC and beyond.

Gainwell, like Henderson, wasn’t recruited much at all coming out of Yazoo County but has proven everyone wrong as a Tiger. In four years on varsity, Gainwell totaled 8,412 yards, 24 100-yard rushing games, 75 rushing touchdowns, 32 touchdown passes and one kick return touchdown. After redshirting, he burst onto the college football scene, running for 1,459 yards and 13 touchdowns for Mike Norvell in 2019. He is going to be a fun one to watch this season and beyond.

The seventh and final USP Tiger on the team ran for 5,801 yards and scored 68 touchdowns during his time in Batesville. Yes, five thousand, eight hundred and one yards and sixty-eight touchdowns, you read that right. After leaving South Panola, Henderson destroyed defenses at the college level where he was First-Team All-AAC, Consensus All-American, and won the Jim Brown Award. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the third round in 2019.