Big Game for Big Junior Football Prospect

LaMichael Fanning, a defensive who is attracting plenty of attention for colleges, talks about recruiting and his unbeaten team's rivalry game this week.

Auburn, Ala.--After helping his team win a big football game last Friday night to stay unbeaten and move to No. 1 in this week's Class 6A state rankings, LaMichael Fanning says he is excited about the opportunity to play in another big game on Friday night.

The 6-7, 270-pound Auburn High School defensive end and his teammates are expected to get a strong test against their No. 1 rival when they make the short trip to Bulldog Stadium to take on Opelika High School.

Last Friday, playing in front of a packed house at Duck Samford Stadium in Auburn, AHS knocked off eighth-ranked Central of Phenix City to win the region title and improve to 8-0. Opelika brings a 6-2 mark into this week's rivalry game.

"We are excited about the Opelika game and we are ready to play," Fanning says. "The school is super-ready for this game. The crowd is going to be so loud. It is really fun to get to play in games like this."

With the win over Central, Auburn moved to No. 1 in the state for the first time since 1967 when there were only four divisions in AHSAA football instead of six. That AHS team played in Class 3A with the largest schools playing in 4A. Currently, AHS plays in the biggest school division (6A).

Fanning transferred to Auburn High over the summer from Callaway High in Hogansville, Ga., and says he is enjoying his new home. "I am fitting in real nicely here," he says.

When he arrived at AHS he was less than full speed nursing an injury, but has steadily improved throughout the fall. "I am full speed and good now," says Fanning, who says that he believes he is making steady improvement as a football player under the direction of veteran defensive line coach Don Dunn, who moved across town this season from Auburn University to coach at AHS.

"Coach Dunn has been working on my technique and teaching me not to just go in there full speed all of the time," Fanning says. "He is teaching me how to control my gap. He is a real good coach."

Dunn suffered a serious knee injury in a practice early in the fall in a practice drill involving Fanning and another college prospect, senior center John Hix, who is the son of former Auburn University offensive lineman Bob Hix. Dunn coached the first half of last week's game from the press box, but wasn't happy with what he saw in the first two quarters from his defensive linemen as AHS was behind 12-7 after giving up one scoring drive and losing a fumble in the end zone on the cold and windy night.

After intermission the coach headed to the sidelines to make some adjustments, both technical and mental, in the defensive front and after that happened the AHS defenders took control of the line of scrimmage in a 26-12 victory.

"We had to change up some things on the D-line," Fanning points out. "Coach came down there and chewed us up and got our mindset changed and we went out there and played better."

LaMichael Fanning is shown in action in his team's game vs. Central High of Phenix City.

Fanning was already being recruited after his sophomore season at Callaway and the interest continues with a large number of colleges showing interest and offering scholarships.

"It is good to know to know the offers are there as long as you handle things in high school," he says.

Commenting on the colleges he likes, Fanning says, "My favorite five would Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Auburn and Clemson." Last Saturday he took an unofficial visit to watch Auburn play. "I talked to the coaches and they told me they were happy for me to be there and everything," he says.

When the football pads are put away, Fanning will turn his attention to playing center on the Auburn High basketball team. AHS is traditionally strong in hoops and this season is expected to be more of the same.

"Basketball is really good for my conditioning because you do way more running than in football," he says. "In football you are running for about five seconds before there is a break, but in basketball you just have to keep going for long periods of time. Basketball also helps my footwork for football." Fanning also plays AAU basketball, plays for the Columbus, Ga., Blazers and the Alabama Hawks.

Senior quarterback Calvin Jenkins is a star player for this year's Auburn High team.

However, it may be a while before he puts on his basketball shoes again with his football team eager to make a strong run in the state playoffs. AHS is a team with a lot of talented players including one of the top quarterbacks in the state, Calvin Jenkins, who was an early verbal commitment to the new program at South Alabama.

"We have a really good team and we feel like we can go all the way," he says.

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