December 12, 2008

Ole Miss making run at dual-threat QB

Not so long ago, it appeared that this would be a lost year for Ole Miss when it came to quarterback recruiting.

The Rebels had finished second to Oklahoma on Drew Allen, back in the pack behind Illinois in the race for Nathan Scheelhaase and are a distant second behind Alabama for AJ McCarron.

In April, Raymond Cotton committed to Auburn and turned his focus to his senior season at Fort Meade (Meade), Md.

Some eight months later, and following a wild turn of events, Ole Miss and Cotton are in the early stages of a courtship.

Ole Miss had accepted a commitment from Louisville, Miss., quarterback Clayton Moore, but rescinded that offer after Moore was dismissed from his high school team during a state semifinal game. Auburn, meanwhile, suffered through a 5-7 season, one in which coach Tommy Tuberville fired offensive coordinator Tony Franklin in mid-season. Several weeks later, Tuberville resigned at Auburn, ending a 10-year run at the school.

Cotton, a 6-foot-4, 216-pounder, remains committed to Auburn, his father, Raymond Cotton Sr., said Thursday night. However, the younger Cotton is clearly evaluating other options.

"We're taking a wait-and-see approach," the elder Cotton said. "If (Auburn linebackers) Coach (James) Willis is retained (by Auburn's as-yet-unnamed new head coach), we'll open a dialogue with the new coach. If not, there will probably be a quick de-commit."

In the meantime, Cotton is taking a look around.

"He's definitely going to take (an official visit) to Ole Miss, for sure," Cotton said, adding that the date of the visit to Oxford will likely be Jan. 9, though the Jan. 23 weekend is a possibility as well.

Cotton has lined up an official visit to Southern Miss on Jan. 16 and he's discussing visits to Arkansas and/or Florida as well.

Raymond Cotton Sr., is already retirement-eligible from his military career after 23 years in the service. He said Thursday he plans to work almost two more years _ long enough to allow his youngest son, Anthony, a junior at Meade _ before retiring to Kosciusko, Miss., where both sets of his children's grandparents live.

Cotton Sr., said his son's interest in Ole Miss in three-fold: He's interested in playing for Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, he liked the way Ole Miss developed sophomore quarterback Jevan Snead this season and because of a growing respect for and trust in Ole Miss offensive coordinator Kent Austin. Throw in family in the north Mississippi/Memphis area, and it's clear the Rebels could potentially become a major player for the four-star quarterback's services.

"Ray said he thinks Ole Miss is the type of team to challenge Alabama next year," Raymond Cotton Sr. said.

Austin will be in Maryland on Monday for a visit with the family. Southern Mississippi coach Larry Fedora was in Meade on Wednesday, and Willis has told the family that Auburn "will put up a fight." Still, Cotton Sr., said, "Ole Miss keeps coming up at the top of his list."

Cotton completed 154 of 300 passes for 2,243 yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Cotton is ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 3 scrambling quarterback and the nation's No. 12 dual-threat quarterback. He is expected to easily meet NCAA initial-eligibility requirements.

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