December 1, 2008

Noxubee County standouts to entertain Rebel assistant

Patrick Patterson and Deontae Skinner are five days away from the most important high school game of their lives.

The Macon (Noxubee County), Miss., standouts face off against Kevin Norwood, Jacoby Bell and d'Iberville Saturday in Jackson for the state championship.

The intense focus might be on Saturday's tilt, but recruiting isn't far from their minds, especially in the immediate aftermath of Ole Miss' 45-0 win over Mississippi State and Sylvester Croom's Saturday resignation from the Bulldogs' top post.

"I was thinking he was going to stay in a couple of more years to see how his recruiting would go this year," said Patterson, a four-star wide receiver who has accumulated 73 catches for more than 1,300 yards and 19 touchdowns so far this season.

"I wasn't surprised at all," said Skinner, a three-star defensive end who is projected as an outside linebacker at the collegiate level. "The season has been a down one for them."

Both Patterson and Skinner committed to the Bulldogs prior to the start of the season. Skinner said Sunday night he remains committed, though he has lined up an official visit to Southern Miss for Jan. 16 and plans to iron out plans for an official visit to Ole Miss when Rebel running backs coach Derrick Nix visits him in his home Monday night. Patterson backed away from his verbal commitment earlier in the season, when the Bulldogs' offense failed to gain traction. Patterson has visits set to Auburn and Southern Mississippi in January. Alabama and Ole Miss are both very much in the mix as well, and Nix will be visiting Patterson Monday night as well.

The Rebels have been on Patterson's mind much of this season, thanks in large part to Ole Miss' offense. The Rebels are fourth in the Southeastern Conference with 30.8 points per game, third in the league in total offense with 398.7 yards per game and fourth in the conference in passing offense with 215.2 yards per game through the air. Even though Patterson was gearing up for this past Friday's state semifinal game, he watched the Egg Bowl on television.

"I feel like Ole Miss came out and played hard," Patterson said. "They jumped on them from the start. I don't want to pay recruiting too much attention. I just worry about my season. I'm excited about (Saturday's game). After that, I'm going to take about a week or so (before focusing on recruiting)."

As for Mississippi State, Patterson said he won't rule out the Bulldogs, at least not yet.

"I'm going to have to wait and see who they hire," Patterson said.

Skinner, who enters Saturday's title game with 125 tackles, nine quarterback sacks, eight hurries, one forced fumble and a pass break-up, said Sunday night he remains committed to the Bulldogs. However, he acknowledged that there's an opening for Southern Miss and Ole Miss.

The Rebels, Skinner said, "are really trying hard. Coach Nix is coming by my house tomorrow. They've impressed me a lot. I see that they can win. They're about winning. They're motivated by winning. They want me to join the team.

"They have a chance. It's not a strong one just yet, but as (recruiting) goes, it might get stronger."

Skinner said he expects the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker should be an easy one, a confidence that developed this season with Skinner excelling despite a balky hamstring injury that he was forced to play through.

"I've really gotten a lot better," Skinner said. "This year was a big year for me. I've been hurt through the season, but I played through it. It's just another step. I stand up when I play defensive end, so it's just another step."

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