Every year in December, the top players in Alabama and the top players in Mississippi get together in Mobile, Ala., for a competitive all-star matchup for state border bragging rights. But why wait until December when you can play out the matchup on paper in July?
Traditionally, the state of Alabama has been the more productive state of the two when it comes to sending prospects on to college and seeing them move on to the NFL. However, a relatively down year for talent in Alabama this year and a relatively strong year for talent in Mississippi make a potential matchup of each state's elite very intriguing.
Starting at the quarterback position, Mississippi would likely be led by Maikhail Miller. The recent Ole Miss commit threw for just under 1,900 yards as a junior and had just under 500 yards rushing and accounted for 29 total touchdowns. Miller has good size, is athletic and most importantly, he can make every throw in the book and distribute the ball to an explosive, athletic receiving corps.
His opposition could be one of a few different options out of the state of Alabama. Quarterbacks such as Stephen Rivers and Broderick Hall have impressed at times this year but perhaps the passer with the most upside in Alabama is Florida State commit Jacob Coker. Coker has great size, a nice delivery and good arm strength.
Both quarterbacks have some weaknesses with Miller still needing to add some polish to his game and Coker still needing to prove that he can be productive under the lights but the upside on both sides makes the quarterback battle a near push.
Ala. Offense vs. Miss. Defense
A quarterback is only as good as the offensive line in front of him and neither Alabama nor Mississippi boasts a lot of line talent in the 2011 class. Alabama's line may consist of four-star Auburn commit Reese Dismukes at center with big bodies like David Simon, Thomas Williams and Spencer Region around him. Also added in the mix might be David Reeves, a tight end with a great frame who could easily project into a tremendous tackle prospect on the next level.
That line does have a nice mix of size and athleticism but other than Dismukes at center, it lacks a truly elite anchor that can give the quarterback piece of mind as an edge protector.
The front seven that Alabama would be facing from Mississippi could potentially consist of a 3-4 defense that saw Woodrow Hamilton at the nose with P.J. Jones and Michael Brinson each with a hand down, while Trae Johnson walks down from his strong side linebacker position.
That front four has a lot of athleticism but only gets more athletic with the addition of C.J. Johnson, Marcus Mayers and Darion Arrington to complete the front seven. Mayers and Arrington are athletic enough to excel at multiple other positions on Friday nights and Johnson is one of the nation's most highly recruited linebackers.
Behind its big offensive line, Alabama might look to give the ball to its shifty running back Ameer Abdullah and allow him to hide behind his big blockers, dart in and out of holes and make plays in space.
Abdullah also has the ability to make plays in the passing game and so do the receivers around him. In a deep year at the receiver position in Alabama, Danny Woodson and Marvin Shinn lead this group as big targets that have been outstanding at the high school level. Collins Moore is a technician at the receiver position and has been dominant on the camp circuit this offseason. Meanwhile recent Auburn commit Jaylon Denson has emerged lately with dominating camp and 7-on-7 performances to be one of the fastest rising prospects in the southeast.
The Mississippi defensive backs that would match up bring a ton of athleticism though they may be a tad raw. Cody Prewitt and Justin Cox at the safety position are great examples. Both players test off the charts but have limited experience at defensive back. With more comfort at the position, the two could be All-SEC caliber prospects. In Senquez Golson and Jermaine Whitehead, the cornerbacks possess the same kind of upside and would be able to matchup with the deep Alabama receiving corps.
Miss. Offense vs. Ala. Defense
When Mississippi has the ball, its makeup is similar in that the offensive line doesn't have a lot of depth but does have a couple of standouts. What sets Mississippi apart is that it would be able to rely on a pair of very talented bookends at tackle in James Maiden and Aaron Morris. Another converted tight end would enter the mix in Daniel Knox and he would be joined by Justin Bell and Nick Redmond on the interior.
That line would need to find a way to give Miller time in the pocket because he has a loaded group of receivers to work with, starting with his running back Chelarvez Brown. The 6-foot-1 back could easily play wide receiver as opposed to running back with terrific hands and route-running ability.
Miller would also rely heavily on Nickalos Brassell and Donte Moncrief, two of the most explosive wide receivers in the country. Moncrief is bigger but actually may be faster than Brassell, but Brassell is just an electric athlete that is incredibly sudden and is a threat to score from anywhere. Tobias Singleton is also a huge big-play threat and smooth athlete.
At tight end, Malcolm Faciane has the build of a future NFL prospect and would be a great presence in the run game as well as in the red zone as a big target.
Mississippi would be up against a front seven that is light at the interior but heavy with linebackers that can run and have size. Tennessee commit Allan Carson could be called upon to anchor the 3-4 at nose with JaBrian Niles and Devaunte Sigler flanking him.
At linebacker, five-star Brent Calloway would lead the way while a big body like Kameron Wood would serve as a perfect outside linebacker hybrid on the edge. Rounding out the linebackers Anthony Swain has a lot of athleticism and versatility while Chris Landrum is a bigger backer that has the ability to play running back at the high school level.
The versatility of players like Swain and Calloway would be crucial to Alabama for getting in passing lanes in what would sure to be a pass-happy Mississippi offense. Fortunately, Alabama has plenty of help at defensive back as well.
Jonathan Rose leads the way as a big physical corner that could match up well with Moncrief. Jacquese Kirk would be asked to hold his own on the opposite side, likely spending much of his day chasing Brassell. Meanwhile the safeties are well-equipped for a daunting task.
Chris Jones is a true cover safety that would feel comfortable in the slot if matched up with a player like Singleton and Erique Florence is a downhill safety that would need to be physical in both the run game and the pass game as Faciane gets to the second level in both.
Picking a Winner
Alabama's athleticism on the second level with its linebacking corps and its strong secondary would likely be enough to keep the Mississippi team under wraps for at least one half. But with Moncrief, Brassell and Singleton all itching to bust a big play, it is only a matter of time before one or two come either on a deep route or an underneath screen.
Those big plays would have Alabama reeling late in the game but it has its fair share of big-play athletes to respond. Perhaps more importantly though, Alabama has a bigger, more well-rounded offensive line that would start to wear on Mississippi late in the game. With Abdullah drawing in the defense by turning a variety of option routes and check-downs into solid gains, the inexperienced Mississippi secondary may lose focus and let one of the savvy quartet of receivers get behind them for a decisive big play.
In a game of momentum shifts and decisive plays, Alabama would come from behind to steal a 3-point win.