SP signees 2/8/13

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 8, 2013

13 Tigers sign NLIs

By Angie Ledbetter

The South Panola Tiger class of 2013 had 13 to sign National Letters of Intent (NLI) on Wednesday, National Signing Day.

ESPN was live at the high school media center with a standing room only crowd, which spilled out into the hallway, to watch senior safety Tony Conner make his announcement to sign with the Ole Miss Rebels.

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The five-star recruit and Mississippi’s Mr. Football had been quiet about his choice, causing rumors to run rampant about with whom he would eventually choose to sign.

“It was hard turning down Alabama because South Panola is known to go to the state championship every year and Alabama is known for going to the BCS championship every year,” said Conner. “Me and the other guys decided to go to Ole Miss and put them on the map. We’re going to beat the best of the best no doubt about it.

“I made my decision after I visited Mississippi State.  Alabama and Ole Miss were the two that were at the top of my list. My mom and I sat down and talked. She was happy with my decision.”

Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze said he was under self-pressure to win Conner.

“Tony Conner throwing up a landshark on TV today, our room erupted,” said Coach Hugh Freeze. “That was very special. What a great kid he is and he wants to represent this state. Our message was to him was real simple. Come help us do it right here in our own state, a state I’m from and he’s from and right down the road was great.

“I think he’s one of the best safeties coming out of high school football in a long time,” Freeze continued. “He’s so physical, so rangy and so fast. Conner is an immediate difference maker in what we do. We needed our best athlete to play at our husky position and we’ve identified him as that type of guy.”

Referring to how hard it was to get Conner.

“I probably felt as much pressure, not that because anyone put it on me but I’m from here and I understand you’re supposed to win that recruit. Conner was a great master of his emotions. He doesn’t communicate all the time as much as you’d like for him to.”

Freeze complimented Mary Conner, Tony’s mother.

“What a wonderful mother he has in Ms. Mary. She’s just a champ. I always felt good when I was around him but I knew there was a lot of other coaches that were around him also so I was never really quite sure. Certainly being right down the road in Batesville you feel a little bit more pressure of winning him not only because he’s a tremendous football player but  it’s an area Ole Miss is supposed to get.”

Deon Mix
Offensive lineman Deon Mix de-committed from Mississippi State and visited Auburn over the weekend and then chose to sign with Auburn.

“I felt I cut myself short committing to MSU so early,” said Mix. “A few of the coaches and I had a few conflicts and I saw how they really were. I had to do some soul searching and I thought I didn’t need to be there.

“I had talked to the old coaching staff at Auburn but when I called and asked them if I still had an offer, the next day they were at my house,“ Mix added. “That let me know they were real serious about it.”
Mix said he liked the coaches and the people at Auburn.

“They’re on their way back to the top so we got a bunch of good players today and we’re going to get more.”

More Signees
Terry Boyd (center and guard) signed with Hinds Community College.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to move on to the next level and it’s a blessing. I did a lot of praying and thinking. We’re going to do the same thing we did here at South Panola. Win, win, win and win.”

Darrel Davis, defensive lineman, said it was a hard process to make his choice of Hinds Community College.

“I enjoyed taking all the visits and I finally broke it down to Hinds and Northeast. When Hinds came to visit something just set with me and my family so I had to make a decision. I think I can take the strive to win to Hinds and go in and make plays when we need them.”

Wide receiver DeAndrea Harris chose Hinds also because he felt more comfortable with them.

“All the other colleges didn’t have what I was looking for in education. Today means a lot to me because it’s my first time to get to sign anywhere. Playing for South Panola has prepared me a lot because I had a chance to have one on one coverages.”

Tightend Jaylen Lee narrowed his choices down to Hinds and Mississippi Valley but chose Hinds to play tightened.

“Today starts a new beginning for me. I chose Hinds because I felt more at home there. As soon as I stepped out of the van it just felt like I was at home. I think I can help the program due to playing at South Panola.”

Justin Barksdale, offensive lineman, said signing day meant a lot to him because he was going on to do something else good for his life. He chose to continue his career at Northeast.

“I was looking at Northwest until they lost the coaching staff,” Barksdale said. “Northeast really talked to me a lot. I got to know the coaches and we had a good relationship. I feel I can do good there and I’m prepared for college also.”

Offensive lineman Damien Rayford made Northeast his final choice to play on the offensive line.

“It was close to home and I’m familiar with that area. Having some other classmates playing over there will help me a lot also. I’ve always looked forward to this day because none of my brothers or sisters never made it through high school so I’ll be the first.”

Running back Ledarius Strong chose Northeast because he thought it was the best opportunity for him.
“I looked at Northwest, Hinds and Coahoma also. I like the coaches at Northeast and they told me they needed some running backs. We’re going to turn it up a notch there and take it to the top. I plan to work on my skills while there and continue at Ole Miss.”

Linebacker Je’Tavious Turner wants to attend Northeast and play ball for one year as linebacker and safety.

“I’m going to do my work and play ball and then hopefully move on. I felt like I was at home there with the coaches. I think all of my teammates and I will do the best we can there as a team. We were like family at South Panola and now some of them will be at Northeast with me.”