Relationship brings Middleton back for visit

Finesse Middleton, a defensive end prospect from Gadsden, Ala., verbally committed to Ole Miss in late July. However, his relationship with Charlie Strong has prompted Middleton to visit Louisville at least one more time. has the latest.

Among this weekend's impressive list of expected unofficial visitors is a trio of prospects that have extended verbal commitments elsewhere. Louisville products, Jason Hatcher of Trinity, who has pledged to USC and Joey Bloomfield of Ballard, who announced for Kansas are two that should be in attendance on Saturday. Joining them as a guest for the Cardinals home game against South Florida is current Ole Miss commit Finesse Middleton.

Middleton, 6-foot-2, 255-pounds, is a defensive end prospect who views his job as applying pressure and getting to the quarterback. Through seven games, Middleton has registered 55 tackles, 10 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and an interception for Gadsden City (Ala) High School.

"We started out strong, going 4-0, but we've had a few setbacks," he said on Wednesday evening. "We're 4-3 now. If we can win this game, we should be set for the state playoffs."

Middleton has plenty of motivation. He missed a major portion of his junior season after suffering a broken foot during a game.

"I have a lot to prove," he explained. "It was this time last year that I broke my foot. It was just an average play. I actually played the next couple plays."

It wasn't until he left the field when his team was forced to punt that he realized the severity of his injury.

"I could hardly walk," he continued. "When I got to the sideline I sat down and the coaches took my shoe off. My foot just kept getting bigger."

Fully recovered from the injury months ago, Middleton spent his much of his spring and summer visiting schools and attending camps. Louisville, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Southern Miss, Tennessee and UAB were among his stops.

Middleton is actually very familiar with the Louisville program and head coach Charlie Strong. He attended a Louisville camp as a freshman and started building a relationship with the Cardinals third-year head coach while he was the defensive coordinator at Florida.

"I've been a fan of Louisville since I was growing up and really have always liked that school," he told in July. "Also, I have a relationship with Coach Strong when he was down in Florida. We had gotten to know each other so when I got that offer from them I was real happy."

Despite his many visits and scholarship offers, the race for his services has been one between Louisville and Ole Miss from nearly the beginning.

"They have a fresh start," Middleton said of Ole Miss. "They have new coaches there and I believe that they'll turn things around."

While other programs such as Colorado State and Tulane continue keep tabs on his progress, his lengthy relationship with Charlie Strong is a key factor in Middleton's decision to make another trip to the Derby City and possibly reconsider his initial choice.

"I'm actually flying to Louisville this weekend," he told

He admits that it would a difficult decision to make should Louisville request a commitment during his visit, but that it's one that he'd have to consider.

"I'm very high on Ole Miss, but I'm still torn," he explained. "I'd say I'm about 80% right now. Coach Strong and I have just had a really good bond for a long time."

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