MURFREESBORO — Oakland senior safety Kaleb Oliver already has his college choice locked up, having committed to Mississippi State in June.
All that’s left for No. 11 on The Tennessean’s Dandy Dozen, besides trying to help Oakland reach the Class 6A BlueCross Bowl, is improving on his already stellar academic standing.
“That was a lot of weight off my shoulder,” Oliver said. “I’m trying to get my grade point average (currently 3.2) up and get my ACT up from a 20 last time.
“It will be a lot easier my senior year, not worrying about coaches calling every day.”
The Dandy Dozen is a list of the top senior college football prospects in Middle Tennessee as selected by The Tennessean high school sports staff with input from area high school coaches and recruiting services.
Oliver, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, is ranked as the 19th-best football prospect in the state for the Class of 2017 by 247Sports. Oliver had 99 tackles with five interceptions and three sacks in 2015.
The Patriots are in good shape in the defensive backfield, with Oliver and JaCoby Stevens manning the safety positions. Both are expected to provide crowd-pleasing plays throughout the season.
“It’s like having a defensive back with a linebacker mentality,” said Oakland coach Kevin Creasy. “(Oliver) doesn’t mind contact. He plays with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder.”
“We should be hard-hitting,” Oliver added. “We’re hoping every game will be like that. We’ve all bought in as a senior class, and the sophomores and juniors are following the leaders.”
Oakland’s defense allowed 14 or fewer points in 10 of its 14 games last season, seven or fewer in eight of those. With experience returning up front and in the linebacker corps, Oliver is confident the team can ride its defense in 2016.
“Our defense is there,” he said. “We have a lot of top talent there. We believe in our defense, no matter who we play. We’re going to have to play well every game (in Region 2-6A). It’s the SEC of Tennessee football.”
Oliver worked hard in the offseason, not relaxing once he picked his college choice. Commitments are nonbinding for the school and player. Players can not sign until Feb. 1.
“He had a great offseason,” Creasy said. “He did an amazing job in the weight room. He’s built so long, it’s hard for defenders to block him. He can also play a variety of positions. It’s hard to game plan for him because he can move around.”
Added Oliver, “I got a lot stronger in the weight room. I also believe I’m smarter on the field. My ball skills have improved since last year and I’ve just gotten better all around. I want to show Mississippi State what they’ve got at safety.”
Reach Cecil Joyce at 615-278-5168 and email@example.com.
Height: 6-3 Weight: 190
247Sports composite: Three stars
College plans: Committed to Mississippi State on June 22.
2015 statistics: The 2015 All-Region 2-6A selection posted 99 tackles – 12 ½ behind the line of scrimmage – with three sacks, five interceptions, six pass breakups and a pair of fumble recoveries for the Class 6A semifinalist Patriots.