December 8, 2009

AL-MS notebook: Milliner staying busy

MOBILE, Ala. - The top rated prospect on either team in Mobile is five-star Alabama commit Demarcus Milliner. For Stanhope-Elmore, Milliner does virtually everything on the football field. He is a safety, a wide receiver, a "wildcat" quarterback, a kick returner and a punt returner. One of the few positions he doesn't frequent in high school is the position he is slated to play for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa: cornerback.

That will change this week as Milliner will be getting plenty of time on the island at corner.

"I can't wait to get out here and play wherever coach puts me at," Milliner said following Tuesday's day of work. "I'll be playing a little bit of corner and safety so I can't wait. I just want to be able to come out here and play with the best teammates that are the best in the country and just compete against the best."

Though he has limited experience at the position, Milliner didn't let it show on Tuesday. His make-up speed, size and athleticism had him flying around the field making a number of plays. His play allowed him to defend his ranking nicely and show the kind of upside that has the Alabama staff excited.

Though the move to cornerback will be new, the rest of his activities on the field will be more of the same. Along with both safety and corner, Milliner may see the ball in a number of different ways come Saturday.

"Coach said he's thinking about putting me at wide receiver or running back a little bit," he said. "Coach puts me at different spots so I get to show what I can do. I want to be wherever they put me at. Wherever they put me it doesn't matter to me."

Chemistry at the bookends
Olive Branch (Miss.) High School may have ended their season earlier than its big offensive tackles Damien Robinson and Shon Coleman may have hoped. Fortunately, the two massive bookends are going to get plenty more opportunities to play with one another even if they don't attend the same school - something that is still a possibility.

Robinson will start at right tackle for Mississippi while Coleman will start on the left side. The two play right and left tackle for Olive Branch and may even play the positions together once more after the All-Star Classic as they are both slated to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.

"It feels the same playing with him out here," Robinson said of the experience. "We just come together as brothers and do what we know how to do. Hopefully this week we'll get better and play against some good players."

Robinson remains uncommitted to date but has official visits scheduled for Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Oklahoma.

Coleman has been committed to Auburn since April but plans to take all five of his official visits. He has listed Tennessee, Miami, Arkansas and Auburn as four schools he has plans to visit officially with the fifth visit still in limbo.

There's not much that Cherokee County quarterback Coty Blanchard can't do. Blanchard just finished leading his team to an undefeated state championship doing damage both through the air and on the ground.

Blanchard also is a standout shortstop for his high school team and was previously committed to Mississippi State for baseball before opening up his recruitment again in hopes of gaining more football opportunities. For his Alabama All-Star team, not only did Blanchard have a great day throwing the football into gusting winds but he also lined up at punter and looks to have quite a leg to go with his big arm.

Blanchard is joined at the quarterback position by another multi-sport star. Daryl Norris is a Mississippi State baseball commit.

Clear targets
It didn't take long on Tuesday to identify the top receiving targets on each team. Dominique Sullivan has emerged as the primary quarterback for the Mississippi team and he has found something he likes in the hands of wide receiver Markese Triplett.

Triplett, a big wide receiver committed to Southern Miss, has fantastic hands and great route-running ability. He understands how to come back to the ball and use his body to beat defensive backs to the football. His size and body control make him a quarterback's best friend.

For Blanchard and Alabama, the clear focus of the offense is much smaller but also much faster. Solomon Patton should get the ball in his hands in a number of ways due to his speed. Though he is undersized, Patton caught the ball well and will be both a vertical threat and an elusive mismatch in the slot.

The replacements
Two players for the Mississippi squad were unable to make the trip due to injury. Noxubee County wide receiver Vincent Sanders has struggled with injuries all year including a broken jaw early in the season. A late-season strained hamstring has kept him at home for this event and Sanders has been replaced by Terrance Taylor out of Morton High School.

While Taylor has a very similar build to Sanders and should be able to add another possession receiver, Mississippi will be missing the big play ability of Sanders vertically.

Oak Grove athlete Jay Hughes was slated to play running back for the Mississippi squad but after banging up his knee in the state finals, he was unable to make the trip. Hughes, an athletic multi-purpose back has been replaced by Deshaun McGaughy a 5-foot-9, 205-pound physical specimen. McGaughy fits in with a physically impressive group of backs for the Mississippi squad.

On the hoof
Perhaps the two most impressive players on the hoof played the same position for different teams. For Mississippi Curtis Virges has an incredibly unique body. He has high calves, big arms and a sturdy frame that gives him a lot of versatility on the defensive line. Virges could project at offensive guard, defensive tackle or defensive end on the next level.

Kenneth Carter has similar versatility for Alabama. He is a can't-miss with the eyeball test if you scan the Alabama practice field and his play backs up his frame. He can play at both defensive tackle and end and he used tremendous strength and quickness to make himself a very tough block for the offensive line.

With both possessing ability to go with their unique physical presence, expect to see a lot of activity from them on Saturday. The two will face off on future Saturdays as well as they are committed to SEC West foes Mississippi State and Auburn respectively.

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