January 21, 2010

Ole Miss making push for gulf coast standouts

Brandon Keel and Sam Noblin grew up minutes apart on Mississippi's gulf coast.

They met last fall during unofficial visits to Ole Miss.

Months later, the versatile standouts are facing almost identical decisions and interestingly, they just might end up being teammates at the next level.

Ole Miss wide receivers coach Ron Dickerson Jr. met with both Keel and Noblin on Wednesday, offering both prospects preferred walk-on status and the prospect of future scholarships with the Rebels.

Keel, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound fullback/outside linebacker from Gulfport (Harrison Central), and Noblin, a 6-3, 210-pound athlete from Ocean Springs, will both take official visits on Jan. 29.

Keel had originally planned to visit North Texas on Jan. 29. However, after his meeting with Dickerson Wednesday, that plan changed. Brandon Keel:

"Ole Miss is probably where I'm going to end up going," Keel said. "It's not over yet."

Keel also has offers from Louisiana-Monroe and Army. He hasn't heard from the Warhawks in a couple of weeks and after giving West Point serious consideration, he decided that wasn't for him.

"They had offered me early, towards the end of the summer," Keel said. "We stayed in touch a pretty good bit through the end of our high school season. It's not really something I don't want to go into. I told them that and they understood. It's just not something I want to do. It was a huge honor just to have an offer to go up there."

Keel said Ole Miss is recruiting him as a fullback, but the Rebels like his versatility. Keel had 11 rushes for 217 yards for Harrison Central, adding 115 tackles, two quarterback sacks, three forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and an interception on defense.

"I really don't have a preference," Keel said. "To me, it's pretty much the same position."

What makes Ole Miss attractive, Keel said, is third-year Rebels coach Houston Nutt.

"Ever since I went up there, I fell in love with it," Keel said. "I see Coach Nutt as an amazing coach. He's awesome. Coach Nutt has really turned it around. They're telling me they like me a lot. Coach Dickerson has told me if I go up there and contribute at all, I could possibly get a scholarship in January or the next year. It's kind of a leap of faith, but if it does work out, I'd be playing in the SEC, and there's no better conference in the nation."

Noblin, whose father, Jeff, played at Ole Miss, is considering taking the same leap of faith.

"I've always been interested in Ole Miss," Noblin said. "What they're telling me right now is that they're not going to offer me. They want me to come as a priority and see how things work out. I'm not overly enthused about it, but they're telling they do want me up there. It's obviously something I'm going to have to think about a lot."

First, Noblin will take an official visit to Memphis this weekend. The Tigers offered earlier this month, and Noblin has met with Memphis assistants Jay Hopson and Mike Dubose in recent weeks.

"I've never really been up there, so I'm kind of curious to go up and see what it's all about," said Noblin, who also has an offer from Army, one that he's still giving some consideration to. "I know it's prestigious. I don't know if the military thing is right for me, but I'm thinking about it."

Noblin, who threw for more than 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns while rushing for 417 yards and 10 TDs, will likely play defense in college. He had 81 tackles and an interception for Ocean Springs last season.

"Coach Dickerson told me that right now, they have me listed as an athlete," Noblin said. "He's not sure what position I'd play. He said they'd look at me as a safety or an outside linebacker or maybe a wide receiver."

As for a decision, Noblin said he's in no hurry.

"I'm going to wait," Noblin said. "I want to take both visits and see if anything else opens up and then take it from there."

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