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July 27, 2011

What we learned: Mississippi tour

MORE MISSISSIPPI: Camp standouts

Mississippi State and Ole Miss played host to their respective Big Dawg and Senior Camp events on Friday and Saturday, and each had plenty of prospects on hand. Here are five thoughts from Rivals.com Southeast analyst Keith Niebuhr, who attended both events.

1. Channing Ward is the real deal

As good as the heralded defensive end from Aberdeen, Miss., is on film, he's even more impressive in person. For starters, the kid is built like a tank, particularly from the waist down. He's also quite gifted athletically. At Big Dawg, he was sharp in individual drills and dominant in one-on-ones. He showed great effort, energy and intensity, a sign of someone who likes to compete. What stood out most? Probably his ridiculously quick first step and explosiveness. One other thing: Ward, who's uncommitted, is so versatile he could even play linebacker in college.

2. Richie Brown shouldn't be underestimated

Brown, an inside linebacker from Long Beach, Miss., says people look at his 40-yard-dash times and can't believe a white linebacker could be so fast. Brown consistently turns in times in the sub-4.5 range. And he's not just testing fast; he's football fast. He covers a ton of space in a hurry and has great instincts. He has major offers and might have a shot at getting bumped up to four-star status before it's all said and done.

3. Ward isn't Mississippi's only big-time DL prospect

In Ward, Quay Evans, Issac Gross, Nick James and A.J. Jefferson, the Magnolia State has five big-time defensive linemen. All but Gross took part in one form or another at one of the two camps; Jefferson even attended both. Ward is an absolute terror. Evans and James possess prototypical tackle frames. And Jefferson looks to have great potential. Ward and Evans appear to be a cut above, but James certainly isn't far behind. According to those who follow him regularly, he has slimmed down substantially since last season. And with the weight gone he is moving better than ever. For a 300-pounder, he has soft feet and explodes well. In one-on-ones, he displayed good quickness, power, determination and technique.

4. Still in play?

A few prospects committed to other schools showed up at the camps, making one wonder how committed they really are. Georgia Tech linebacker commit Tyler Stargel camped at Mississippi State; Tennessee linebacker commit Otha Peters and Virginia Tech cornerback commit Davion Tookes were at Ole Miss. The prospects said they were there for the competition, but there is no doubt those players, particularly Stargel and Peters, are still being strongly pursued by the Bulldogs and Rebels, respectively. Once a program gets a prospect on campus anything is possible, so it will be interesting to see how things unfold in the coming weeks.

5. Peters is this year's James Wilder Jr.

The good news for Peters, a three-star linebacker from Covington, La., is if football doesn't work out, he can always go into bodybuilding. Last year, analysts raved about the physique of Wilder, a running back who signed with Florida State. In this class, Peters might own the most put-together body in the South. This guy is one gigantic muscle. And the funny thing is, his coach said Peters doesn't even have a great diet.

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at kneebs01@aol.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KeithRIVALS.




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