May 4, 2008

Rebels in top six for dominant defender

Mansfield, La., five-star defensive tackle Chris Davenport knows it's widely assumed he's going to end up at LSU. And it's no secret that the 6-foot-4, 307-pounder really likes the Tigers.

However, to assume that it's a done deal that one of the nation's most dominant defenders will definitely end up in Baton Rouge could be a mistake.

"People just think that because I'm from Louisiana," Davenport said Saturday night, hours after returning from Baton Rouge, where he finished seventh in the shot put at the state track tournament. "I'm just taking my time and enjoying the ride. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance."

Davenport has a long list of potential suitors, but he said Saturday night that six stick out. LSU, of course, is in that group, but Davenport said the Tigers are not ahead of or behind Ole Miss, Southern Cal, Tennessee, Florida State and Alabama. Other programs who have sent representatives to Mansfield this spring who are drawing consideration include Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Arkansas State and Tulane.

Ole Miss, Davenport said, is definitely in the mix for his signature.

"I feel good about Ole Miss," said Davenport, who was in Oxford last November for the Rebels' game against LSU. "They're a rebounding program with a new coach and I think they're a program on the rise. Most of their defensive linemen are gone after this year, so I could play early. I feel good about Ole Miss."

Davenport said he plans to make another trip to Oxford, likely this summer, before making any further decisions. He's already seen the Rebels' facilities and liked what he saw. He's developed a strong relationship with Ole Miss assistant James Shibest, and Davenport wants to get to know the people inside the buildings better.

"I just want to learn more about their program," Davenport said.

Another program that has impressed Davenport is Alabama. He recently had a video conference with Alabama coach Nick Saban and he and assistant Bo Davis have a strong rapport.

"(Saban) talked to me and my coach about what's going on at Alabama, where their program is and what they're trying to do," Davenport said. "He said they went through spring with only about seven defensive linemen."

Alabama needs defensive linemen, but then again, so does just about every program around. That's one of the reasons Davenport is getting such a high level of attention. He knows whether he goes to LSU, Ole Miss, Alabama or anywhere else, he's likely to play quickly. However, that's not a key component in his decision.

"It's important, but it's not nearly as important as my education," Davenport said. "Football is a way to get my education."

Besides, Davenport said, it's hard to know where he stacks up against other defensive linemen already on college campuses and other prospects his top six choices are recruiting. In other words, does Davenport deserve the hype.

"I'm interested to see how right it is," Davenport said. "I don't let any of this go to my head."

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