Size, speed, power and elusiveness are just some of the many attributes East Marion (Columbia) running back Xavier Grindle has used over the past three seasons to catch the attention of college recruiters.
The 6-foot, 197-pound Grindle has scholarship offers from all three major schools in the state of Mississippi as well as other top schools from the region including LSU, Auburn and Louisiana-Lafayette. Grindle is being recruited primarily as feature running back, but his athleticism has also made him a top prospect at defensive back as well.
East Marion coach Anthony Dillon has coached Grindle, who was recently timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.45 seconds, since he was in the eighth grade. Grindle, and current Petal standout Anthony Alford, helped lead the Eagles to a undefeated mark and a title in the middle school ranks.
“I was blessed to have him when I when started out my first year when he was in junior high as an eighth grader. I had him and Anthony Alford,” Dillon said. “That was a very easy year. We went undefeated that year and won the junior high championship.”
Another sign that Grindle could be special came during his freshman season when he rushed for 341 yards against Hinds AHS in a Class 2A playoff game. Dillon said he has been a member of the varsity squad since his freshman year and reliable starter since the ninth game of that season three years ago.
“I remember the first time he hit the seam as a freshman. I think he carried the ball 25 times for 341 yards in a playoff game. He cracked the starting lineup the ninth ballgame of the season and he’s been here ever since,” Dillon said. “That coach from Hinds came over to me after the game and asked if he was really a ninth grader and I said ‘coach, he’s really a ninth grader.’
“He is very good kid, he’s very talented. I feel he can play at the collegiate level at both positions, but he loves running back. That’s what he hit the scene as,” Dillon added. “He is so talented that you use him anywhere. He has very good vision and speed and great size and balance. He amazes me with cuts and moves that he makes. He can makes guys miss.”
Grindle talked about his ability to make defenders miss in open space and said one of his goals during the summer has been to increase his speed so that he can be even more of a threat when he touches the ball like Chris Johnson is for the Tennessee Titans.
“I’m trying to get faster. I want to be dynamic like Chris Johnson. That’s my biggest asset. When I get in the open field, I feel like nobody can bring me down,” said Grindle, who rushed for 1,262 yards and eight touchdowns last season despite missing a few games with bruised ribs.
On defense, Grindle made 28 tackles, broke up nine passes and had two interceptions last season. Dillon said the college coaches like his ability to play that position if running back does not turn out to be his best position.
“He’s a shut-down corner. He’s going to be on the best receiver on every team that we play. I’m not going to gamble, I’m going to put him on their best receiver,” Dillon said. “He’s a blanket. He has great feet and he can adjust to the ball. He’s got good hips. He can change direction well.”
Ole Miss running backs coach Derrick Nix is trying to get Grindle up to Oxford, while head coach Houston Nutt has also been involved in the recruiting efforts.
“They told me that they wanted me on their team to help them win games. I’m excited about that,” Grindle said of Ole Miss. “It feels like a family, it seems fun. They work hard. It seems like a nice place to be at. Coach Nutt is a wonderful guy. He seems like a nice guy and he knows what he’s talking about.
“He feels real comfortable with Coach Nix. He’s heard a lot about Coach Nix with him being a legend over at Southern (Miss),” Dillon added. “(Ole Miss coaches) like his vision, they like how he can make guys miss. Coach Nutt told me that he is the perfect size.”
The extra attention of being one of the top players in the state hasn’t bothered Grindle, who is using it as motivation to get even better.
“Some think I can be a good defensive back and some think I can be a good running back. They all feel like I can help the team win. I just want to play in college,” Grindle said. “I want to prove people wrong because I come from a little school. If you work hard and have dedication, you can do anything. A lot of players don’t have ability like I have. I’m just enjoying (recruiting) really. I’m just in the moment right now and hopefully I can get better.”
Dillon added that his standout player has worked even harder in the weight room this spring and summer in preparation for his final season.
“He’s always been a nice size kid, and that’s not on work. I finally got him to buy into the weight room. He’s the first one at the weight room now,” Dillon said. “I’m so proud of him. I send him a text every night and tell him that he did good work today and that guys are really looking up to him and to keep it up.”
Grindle was unable to attend the first big camp of the summer held earlier this month in Oxford, but Dillon said he would attend Ole Miss’ One Day Camp for seniors on July 23. (June 23, 2011, Page 7)