HATTIESBURG – Eli Johnson has heard about the “streak” long enough.
During the three-star Lafayette offensive lineman’s official visit to Ole Miss last weekend, Rebels freshman offensive guard Jordan Sims, an Alabama alum of the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Football Classic, reminded Johnson about Alabama’s dominance in the game.
“(He) was one of my hosts (last) weekend and kept talking about the streak,” Johnson said. “I told him we’re going to end it. It’s been seven years. We’ve got a lot of talent.”
Alabama holds a 21-7 advantage over Mississippi since the game’s inception in 1988. While it may have taken 29 years, the MS-AL All-Star Classic will finally be played on Mississippi soil this Saturday.
Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium will host the star-studded event, which features the top seniors in Mississippi and Alabama. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m.
Mississippi lost the last three meetings by six points or less. Having the game at home is one piece of the equation that could finally lead to a win.
“Twenty-something years over there in Alabama, you have to know that when you go over there, it’s going to get a little home cooking,” wide receivers coach Randal Montgomery (Columbus) said. “It’s good to be back at our place, maybe we’ll get a little home cooking for our side. It’s a great event.”
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A loaded roster that features eleven members of The Clarion-Ledger’s Dandy Dozen and upwards of 10 prospects with four-star status may aid in a victory. Team Mississippi hopes a win will turn this game into a healthy rivalry, and it all starts up front with loaded offensive and defensive lines. The sheer size alone was the first thing that jumped out to Bassfield’s Jerome Johnson.
“Monsters. Everybody is just so big,” the defensive tackle said. “Everyone is so good that you really have to compete for your spot.”
The average size along Mississippi’s offensive line is 300 pounds, anchored at its tackle spots by four-star West Point product Scott Lashley and Mississippi State commit Dareuan Parker (DeSoto Central). Its defensive line features a who’s who with the likes of four-star prospects Jeffery Simmons (Noxubee County), Raekwon Davis (Meridian), Benito Jones (Wayne County) and Kobe Jones (Starkville).
“The defensive line was probably one of the easiest groups, next to the receivers, to pick for us,” Montgomery said. “We’ve got some great talent over there. We’ve got some guys over there that’ll probably be playing on Sunday’s, so it’s good, but we’ve got to get them going in the right direction and playing as a team. A lot of those guys are used to being the man on their team. Now they’ve got to come together and trust each other.”
Though an exhibition game, the practices leading up to the MS-AL game hold high importance for several who will transition to a different position in college.
With the size and physicality stretched out across the defensive line, Mississippi State commit Drelan Porter is taking on a new role this week. At 6-foot-4, 205-pounds, Porter was a pure pass-rushing defensive end at South Panola but is adjusting to a different spot for the MS-AL game that will likely be where he plays next season.
“It’s preparing me (for college) because they have me playing outside (linebacker) and I didn’t play outside in high school,” Porter said. “Hard work and fast. That’s how it’s been all week.”
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Mississippi will be without quarterback Jack Abraham, who fractured his shoulder in the MHSAA Class 5A state championship. Itawamba’s Vijay Miller was called up in his place to share reps with Laurel’s Keon Howard. All six of their receiver targets hauled in over 1,000 yards this year.
“A quarterback always loves to have guys like that to throw to,” Miller said.
Mississippi’s last win came in Dec. 2007 when it beat Alabama, 26-7. The game was played twice that year in Mobile.
Few Alabamians playing on Saturday are committed to Mississippi colleges outside of Southern Miss offensive line commit Jacob Johnson and Ole Miss running back pledge Jarrion Street.
Street, a Hewitt-Trussville product, is part of a tight-knit 2016 class for the Rebels. He’ll face off against three of his future teammates this weekend in D.K. Metcalf (Oxford), Benito Jones (Wayne County) and Octavious Cooley (Laurel).
But for now, recruiting classes don’t cross state lines. Especially for a Mississippi squad looking to end a seven-year losing streak.
“Oh yeah, we’re friends, but not this week,” Metcalf said. “We’re kind of enemies right now.”
Contact Courtney Cronin at (601) 961-7091 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @CourtneyRCronin on Twitter.