Recruiting Update, December 10th

Many top recruits across the South are gearing up for a hectic schedule the next couple of months, carefully deciding which schools they will visit in December and January.

Before glancing at a trio of Georgia prep products, linebacker/safety Gabriel O'Neal of Columbus is one of the top high school prospects in Mississippi, with his list of offers steadily rising.

O'Neal, a Dandy Dozen member and two-way standout, also shined in the Falcons' backfield at tailback and quarterback. The versatile, 6-2 and 215-pound O'Neal has offers from LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Auburn, West Virginia and Southern Miss.

And with the recent hiring of Sylvester Croom, O'Neal noted that his interest has increased with the Bulldogs now that a head coach is in place.

"Mississippi State has always been in the picture," said O'Neal. "But it helps out a lot to know who their coach is now, especially one from the NFL. But it doesn't matter to me about the color, as long as he is about winning. I haven't talked to him yet but I am looking forward to it."

O'Neal is still keeping his options open with plans to visit LSU, Auburn and possibly the state's Division I schools.

"I don't have any leader right now, although LSU, Ole Miss and West Virginia are on top of that list," said O'Neal. "USM is coming for a visit today. I don't know when I will commit or where I will commit. But it could be any day. You just never know with recruiting."

Switching states, wide receiver Corey Thompson is another potential recruit that is waiting for more interest from the Bulldogs.

Thompson, 6-1 and 175, played at Douglass High School in Atlanta, Ga., and has offers from Wisconsin, Wake Forest, Marshall, Auburn and Duke.

"I know they have a new coach now," said Thompson. "But they really haven't shown much interest of late with me. And I would probably have more interest in Mississippi State if they showed more attention.

"The location of the school I choose really doesn't matter that much. I am looking for a good environment and good surroundings."

The Bulldogs are also hoping to grab interest from Anthony Parker, a 6-4 and 290-pound offensive lineman from Lovejoy High School in Lovejoy, Ga. Parker is one of several Lovejoy standouts being recruited heavily by MSU, including quarterback Kisan Flakes and defensive end Jeremy Lomax.

Parker has earned all-state honors as a senior and junior and most recently was tabbed the Atlanta Touchdown Club Linemen of the Week.

"I think their program is probably on the rise now and my interest in them is also on the rise," said Parker. "They are still on my list and I will decide between Mississippi State, Louisville and Virginia for my last official visit."

Parker visited N.C. State last weekend and will be paying a visit to Maryland this weekend. His other two visits include Indiana and Tennessee.

"I am looking for a good coaching staff that relates to the players well," said Parker. "And of course, I'm looking for a good team and good football program. The coach also has to have good morals on and off the field. I will make my decision after I have made all my visits."

Tri-City High School tailback Ramarcus Brown, 6-3 and 180, was also impressed with the recent hire of Croom at MSU, and was recently visited by members of the Bulldogs' staff.

"Mississippi State came by to visit me yesterday (last Thursday) and made an offer," said Brown. "I haven't met the new coach yet but I might if I decide to visit there next month."

Brown, ranked among the Top 5 running backs in Georgia, also has offers from Florida, Georgia, Clemson and Michigan State among many others.

Another factor in the favor of Mississippi State may be the relationships with current players in Starkville, Brown pointed out.

"They are a part of history now and I think everybody knows that," said Brown. "I know they will have almost an entire new coaching staff. But those things change all the time with all schools so I really don't look too much at that.

"I know a couple of players at Mississippi State, like Nick Turner who played at Booker T. Washington. That would help already knowing some guys down there. Plus, I think I would have the chance to play early, too."

Paul Jones is a recruiting correspondent for Gene's Page. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at

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