November 3, 2008

Notebook: Rebels make move for targets

Emmanuel Lartey and Alfred Moreland had the Atlanta Falcons' game on the radio as they drove back to College Park, Ga., from Oxford, Miss.

However, the topic of conversation in the car wasn't the Falcons' 24-0 win over the Oakland Raiders Sunday. Instead, the two Banneker High teammates were talking about Ole Miss' 17-7 win over Auburn Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

"It was really good," said Lartey, a cornerback that Ole Miss covets. "I was impressed. I met a lot of coaches that I really like. (Ole Miss assistan coach Tracy Rocker) told me they need corners who can go get jump balls, and I saw that. I just liked it. It was hard to explain. It's a place I could grow up. There are no distractions."

Lartey hasn't set up an official visit to Ole Miss yet, but he will. He's planning to visit Louisville on Nov. 22, and the Rebels, Cardinals and West Virginia make up his top three choices.

Moreland, who all but committed when Ole Miss extended a scholarship offer last month, was impressed with his first trip to north Mississippi as well.

"Everything went good," Moreland said. "It was nice. It was exciting. I liked watching them play. The coach said he would come through the school this week and he'd talk to us. They introduced us to a couple of players who were from the Atlanta area. I talked a lot to (freshman wide receiver) Melvin Harris, and the fans made a big deal out of us being at Ole Miss. It was actually more than what I expected."

As for where Ole Miss stands in the race for his versatile services, Moreland said the Rebels hold a significant lead.

"I put them above all the rest," Moreland said. "In that offense, I could be like Dexter McCluster. I could be their speed back. I could do exactly what he does, but I could add a little bit more in kick returns and punt returns."

Eufala, Ala., linebacker Hans Rice had been planning to take an official visit to Ole Miss for the Auburn game. The early kickoff time _ Raycom picked up the game and moved the kickoff to 11:30 a.m. _ made that almost impossible, so Rice has re-scheduled his trip to Oxford for one of the next two weekends. Ole Miss is idle this weekend and plays host to Louisiana-Monroe at 1 p.m. CST on Nov. 15.

"They're just trying to get my mom up there," Rice said. "My mom has a lot of input into the situation. I could pretty much see myself in the SEC or the ACC. I really like the idea of staying in the Southeast to play. Oxford's not far from my hometown. I really wanted to get up there to the game to see Auburn and get a feel for it. I'll just settle for this week coming up or next week."

As for the game, Rice watched on television and came away impressed.

"I watched the game pretty good," Rice said. "I liked their defense a lot. There are just signs of good things to come for real."

Rice still lists Ole Miss, North Carolina State and Vanderbilt as his top three.

Monticello, Miss., running back Kendrick Hardy, meanwhile, used the Rebels' early start to his advantage. Hardy made it to most of the Ole Miss win over Auburn before heading south to see Southern Mississippi's 70-14 win over UAB that evening in Hattiesburg.

"It was good," Hardy said of the Rebels' performance. "I didn't get to see the whole game, but the part I saw they looked pretty good. I think I could fit right in. They're doing it how I want it, using the I-formation.

"It was like people were really liking it. I don't know how to explain it, but the crowd really got into it. There was this one dude I was sitting by. He knew who I was and we were talking. He was talking about how Ole Miss needed improvements and how their backs run."

Hardy said he's basically narrowed his choices to the in-state trio of Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss, and the Rebels and Golden Eagles appear to hold a lead. Hardy said he plans to be back in Oxford on Nov. 28 for the annual Egg Bowl game between Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

Hardy has 1,600 yards rushing so far this season, despite sharing carries with junior Matthew Wells, who picked up an Ole Miss offer last week. As for his decision timeframe, Hardy said he still plans to wait until February.

David Conner might be waiting until February too. The strong safety from Batesville (South Panola), Miss., had his ride to Oxford fall through on Saturday morning. So the Tigers' leading tackler watched on television.

"It was a great game," Conner said. "Ole Miss came out with the victory and played really good defense. Auburn couldn't do anything but give them the victory. Ole Miss' defense played like they haven't played before. They played great."

Conner committed to Auburn in the summer, but Ole Miss has clearly caught his attention in recent weeks.

"Those two are my main ones I'm looking at," Conner said. "I was really looking forward to see who was the best and Ole Miss came out with the victory. I've been thinking a lot about should I go to Auburn and help that defense or go to Ole Miss where they are going up and Coach (Houston) Nutt is going to be there awhile. I'm just confused about it.

"Sometimes I think about what if I go over there and the year that I get there, he gets fired or something like that. I don't want that. I want somewhere that is going to continue to win. Winning is something I like to do."

Conner said he hasn't talked to Auburn's coaches "in a good while. Last time I talked to them, he just told me to continue to work hard. He said they had fallen off a little bit, but that they were trying to get it together and get back on their feet.

"I've talked to (the Ole Miss coaches) a lot. They've been talking really good about their team and they're showing me what they're talking about. They get on the field and do it. Everything is looking good for them."

Conner said he plans to take official visits to Auburn and Ole Miss. As for his decision, Conner said he's "still committed to Auburn, but if things change, nobody will know until signing day."

Jackson (Jackson Academy), Miss., kicker Andrew Ritter was in Oxford yet again on Saturday, as he has been for most of the Rebels' home games this season.

"It was fun," Ritter said. "The atmosphere was great."

As for the business of recruiting, Ritter picked up an offer from Southern Mississippi last week, adding to an offer list that already included Army and Northwestern (La.) State. Ole Miss, meanwhile, has been honest with Ritter, telling him that there could be a numbers crunch on scholarships.

"They have said that right now, I'd walk on, pay for my freshman year and then be on scholarship," Ritter said. "They've said a scholarship could open for me but they said right now, that's all they can offer me. I'm still going to keep my options open. I want to see what's going to come around. I'm definitely excited they want me to play for them."

Lou Groza Award semifinalist Joshua Shene is a junior next season and will be almost impossible to beat out next year. However, Ritter is hoping to be on the field somewhere next season.

"I would definitely like to go somewhere where I could kick next season," Ritter said. "If not kicking field goals, I could kick off. Redshirting could help me out, but I definitely want to be able to come in as a freshman and contribute wherever I go."



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