The 6-4, 300-pound defensive lineman from Taylorsville, Miss., High is still working on becoming academically qualified to play for the Tigers. Duckworth, who stopped in Auburn on his way to reporting for all-star practice in Mobile, took the ACT on Saturday. He should know the result sometime in July.
Duckworth is shown on a visit to the Auburn University campus last week.
After falling just short of the required 2.5 grade point average in his core curriculum at Taylorsville High despite a stronger finish in the classroom than in his early years of high school, Duckworth can still qualify for freshman eligibility this year if he can score high enough on the ACT to qualify under the NCAA's sliding scale entrance standards.
"I am not planning on going to junior college or prep school," Duckworth told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I plan on taking the test until I am eligible to play at Auburn."
Another Auburn defensive line signee, Antwarn Franklin from Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, took that same route after not qualifying after signing with the Tigers in 2001. Franklin, who qualified earlier this year, has re-signed with the Tigers and will begin two-a-days in August as a true freshman. Franklin is currently on campus doing voluntary workouts with the other defensive linemen.
"Antwarn is working hard and he is in good shape for a freshman," notes junior DeMarco McNeil, who is helping run the afternoon workouts. "He looks like he is eager to play this season."
That is certainly the case with big Duckworth, who is eager to join his buddy and former high school teammate Jason Campbell on the Jordan-Hare Stadium turf for football Saturdays this season. Campbell, a redshirt sophomore, is in a battle with senior Daniel Cobb to win the starting quarterback job.
"I am in good shape," says Duckworth, who certainly looks like he is in excellent condition. "I have been working out a lot getting ready for college football and I was throwing the shot and discus on our track team." Duckworth would have a difficult time getting too far out of shape. He competed in four sports at Taylorsville High--football, basketball, baseball plus track and field and stayed busy with other activities such as performing and singing in a school play.
"I am looking forward to playing in the all-star game," Duckworth adds. "It should be a lot of fun." Based on his practice performances in Mobile and earlier workouts back in Mississippi, Duckworth should be one of the top players in the game.
Duckworth earned All-State football honors as a junior on the offensive line and won All-State honors as a defensive end his senior campaign with 52 tackles. The four-year starter had seven quarterback sacks last fall with two fumble recoveries and one caused fumble. He made several prep All-American teams and is considered one of the top prospects in the Southeast for the 2002 signing class.
What excites college coaches is his excellent combination of athleticism, quickness off the line of scrimmage and raw power. He bench presses better than 400 pounds.
His coach at Taylorsville High, Shannon White, notes that Duckworth dropped 30 pounds prior to his senior season to improve his quickness to play defense. "He is a hard worker who I believe can be very successful at the college level as a tackle," White says.
Duckworth narrowed his college choices from a long list of offers to Auburn and three colleges from his home state--Ole Miss, Southern Miss and Mississippi State.
Duckworth is the only Auburn signee on the Mississippi all-star squad, although punter Michael Gibson had the opportunity to play in the game. Gibson passed due to conflicts with his high school baseball season that ended with a second straight state title and the earlier all-star practices.
There are seven Auburn signees on the Alabama All-Star team and Duckworth says he knows most of those guys already from the football camp circuit or recruiting trips. That group includes wide receivers Montae Pitts of Loachapoka and Benjamin Obomanu of Selma, quarterback Brandon Cox of Hewitt-Trussville, linebacker Tyrone Martin of Benjamin Russell High in Alexander City, center William Ward of Prattville, defensive lineman T.J. Jackson of Opelika and defensive back/linebacker Kevin Sears of Russellville.
Pitts suffered an ankle sprain, but is expected to play. If healthy, he and Obomanu are expected to be the prime targets for lefty quarterback Cox, the state's Mr. Football. Both wide receivers are expected to seriously compete for playing time at Auburn as a true freshman. Pitts has been working out on campus with the returning AU quarterbacks. Obomanu is expected to arrive on campus later this summer.
Martin has a shoulder injury, but he is also expected to play in the all-star game. Jackson, who has also gotten in some practice time on the offensive line, has been working out on the AU campus, too, and is expected to make a serious run for playing time as a true freshman.
The 15th annual Alabama-Mississippi High School All-Star Football Classic will kick off at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Alabama all-stars lead the series 9-5 and are shooting for their fourth straight victory in the series. Both teams are practicing twice a day in Mobile through Thursday to get ready for the game at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Saturday night.