Vaught Hemingway Stadium, as well as the rest of Ole Miss’ football-related facilities, will be a busy place this weekend as the staff hosts the largest contingent of official visitors this year.
Top targets, such as Philadelphia linebacker C.J. Johnson (6-foot-3, 243-pounds, 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and Amanda Elzy cornerback Jermaine Whitehead (6-0, 183, 4.4) are expected to be just some of the approximately 25 recruits who tour the campus and get a glimpse of what it would be like to play for the Rebels.Fullerton College defensive tackle Uriah Grant (6-1, 285) will be one of those many visitors this weekend. He is a top priority for the Rebels because of the lack of depth at the tackle spot. Grant is originally from Miramar, Fla., and he is a mature player as he signed with Wake Forest in 2007. After moving and settling in at Wake Forest for over a month, he said the NCAA found a discrepancy with his paperwork and he ended up leaving after meeting with the Wake Forest administration. Grant was scheduled to play early for Demon Deacons, who at the time, appeared to be poised for a big run in the ACC.
“They were a program that was on the rise and it looked like I was going to play as a true freshman which I liked,” Grant said. “I ended up leaving Wake Forest and went to West Virginia where I redshirted in 2008. Then I went down to Eastern Kentucky to play. I didn’t like it there, I had to get back up to playing Division I again.”
The way Grant was able to do that meant another destination, this time to California at Fullerton.
“I sent film to a whole bunch of JCs. I was going to go to Arizona Western but there was a guy at Eastern Kentucky that told me about Fulllerton. I went out there and fell in love with it,” Grant said. “They had a lot of Florida guys on the team, so it felt comfortable.”
The move certainly paid off for Grant, and Fullerton defensive coordinator Brian Crooks, who saw his standout tackle make 49 overall stops, including 17.5 for a loss, and six sacks this past season.
“Uriah wanted to play Division I again and he did a great job for us and trying to accomplish that goal. He’s more mature than the players we usually deal with, so he instantly became one of our team leaders,” Crooks said. “He is strong, physical and can move. He can rush the passer very well. He’s a complete defensive tackle.”
Crooks compared Grant to former NFL standout Warren Sapp because of his feet and his ability to make tackles down the line or bursting through a gap.
“He’s good at stopping the run and rushing the passer. He’s big and physical, but he does a great job of getting off the ball,” Crooks said. “Teams couldn’t block him one-on-one. He was constantly getting double teamed and he was still third on our team in tackles. That tells you about how he plays.”
Grant said he will make a decision on where he wants to play shortly after he gets back to California from his official visit. Ole Miss and Washington are the only two schools he is picking between and he’s already visited the Huskies. Ole Miss does have a bit of an advantage that Washington doesn’t have. Grant’s teammate at Fullerton, cornerback Aaron Garbutt (6-1, 205), decided he wanted to play for the Rebels late last month and since then he has been trying to convince Grant to join him.
“Aaron tells me all the time how much I would love it there and that I’m going to have a lot of fun on my visit,” Grant said. “He really wants me to come to Ole Miss so we can play together.”
Grant has received an in-home visit already from head coach Houston Nutt, while defensive line coach Terry Price has visited with him a couple times and has started forming a bond. Grant needs one more semester of school at Fullerton to become eligible to play for either the Rebels or Huskies.
Tough to flip
Two other top recruits who will be visiting this weekend who would help serve a big need in the defensive backfield are Miami (Southridge) teammates Gerod Holliman (6-0, 195, 4.5) and Andrew Johnson (5-10, 175, 4.4). Both Holliman and Johnson were committed to the Rebels for almost five months in 2010, but both have since backed off that pledge and opted to both play for Louisville.
Holliman, who is rated as one of the top 150 players in the nation regardless of position, made his decision to play for the Cardinals at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 8 just as Johnson put on his Louisville hat back in Miami.
Holliman confirmed Wednesday night that he would visit Oxford out of respect to recruiting coordinator Chris Vaughn, who has continued to aggressively recruit the four-star players despite them choosing Louisville. A really good official visit would obviously benefit Ole Miss’ chances of landing the pair despite their desire to play for the Cardinals.
Patrick Burrows, the duo’s coach at Southridge, talked highly about the athletic skills the two have and what they would be able to bring to the table for whatever school they sign with.
“Gerod is an instinctive guy. He had 12 interceptions this year because he just has a nose for the football. He does a great job of reading coverages, he reads quarterback keys real well. He’s very cerebral, very verbal,” Burrows said. “I think his biggest asset to a team is that he plays with his team. Gerod grasps concepts well and that will take him a long way.”
Burrows said Holliman was a speedy guy, if not the fastest on the team, but then added he was as fast as the fastest player they played against every Friday. Burrows also added that the No. 1 factor in Holliman’s decision was playing early.
Johnson is considered a lockdown-cornerback because of his speed and size.
“This past year Gerod led us and the county in interceptions and last year it was Andrew who did it,” Burrows said. “We’ve had the No. 1 defense in the county the past two years and a big reason for that is because of Gerod and Andrew. You can leave (Johnson) on an island and he would be fine. He played free safety for me in 2009 and had seven interceptions and this year we had him play cornerback. We put him out on one side by himself and he just covered the best wide receiver. He was also our starting quarterback and I think his awareness on defense was helped because of his knowledge of offense.” (January 20, 2011, Page 6)