Justin Connor out of Sardis, Miss., was left off of the Mississippi/Alabama high school roster that was announced today. North Panola head coach Derek King is as clueless as everyone else why he was not selected.




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"He's averaging nearly a 150 yards rushing a game for us," King said. "Every game he's played he's had over a 100 yards rushing. If there are two better tailbacks in the state than Justin I haven't seen them. I'm not sure what happened to be honest. I didn't get one phone call, text, or tweet from one coach about any of my players this year for either game (MS/AL All-Star and North/South). I don't know why to be honest. I guess the consolation for Justin is that he is playing in the Offense/Defense All-American game in January."

Justin Connor was visibly upset when he learned the news that he wasn't selected.

"I told Justin, look, most of these kids are not getting a chance to play in the SEC. I told him that he worked hard to get that opportunity. He has nothing to be ashamed of. Justin is one of the elite players in Mississippi. I know that. He knows that, but it's hard on a 18-year old kid. The don't see the big picture. He wanted to represent Mississippi and get that "W". But like I told him, most of these kids playing in that game don't get to play in the SEC and get a free education at one of the premier football and academic schools in the country."

The nation's #20 rated running back went through an injury plagued season last season. This year he's finally healthy and it's showing.

"For him, not being injured this year, he's always been fast and strong but mentally he's more comfortable. That's made a big difference for him. He's had 90 carries for 728 yards through five games. We are using a different running scheme this season too. That's helped him out a lot."

The new blocking schemes have helped Justin take off for North Panola's offense.

"We did a lot more reads last year, but this year everything is downhill for Justin. That fits his style more. He's been so focused the past couple of years on reading the defenses and it just clogged his thinking process down. Now he is focused on getting square at the line of scrimmage. His lateral quickness and hips are elite. We wanted to open things up for him and let him cut back and let the lanes develop. He's being much more patient and letting the holes develop and shooting through them."

The 4-Star player has increased his workload this season as well.

"I definitely think him being healthy is the number one thing. I think personally he wanted people to know he can carry the load. Obviously when you get hurt people start questioning you if you can become that workhorse. I think the kids can start questioning themselves too when that happens. He came up to me this summer with a goal in mind. He worked hard this offseason to get his body and mind right to be able to reach that goal. He's on track to meet those and more. I think people doubting him really drives him. You go look at his highlight film and it's titled "overlooked". That's pretty much hit motto right now."

Connor goes both ways for North Panola. Some even suggest that defensive back could be his best position.

"We play him at cornerback and safety too. It depends on the week. We tried to fix things at defensive back he could carry the ball more on offense. We felt like that was the biggest bang for our buck, so-to-speak, to use him more on offense. But he's such a good defensive back too. He's gotten a lot better at disguising his coverages. They don't know pre-snap if he's going to play zone or man. The receivers aren't able to make their pre-snap adjustments now. He's batting down a lot more balls this year because of it. He just had to get to the point of trusting himself. He hadn't played much defense back for us so his eyes were not in the right places. Now they are and he's really taken off. Justin was always wanting to make the big hit, but now he's playing the ball and making more plays. His eyes are just so much better now than before."

When put on the spot coach King was not sure which position is better suited for him in college.

"That's been the conversation since this past spring when he did really well at the combines at defensive back. We decided in the spring we should start giving him some more experience at defensive back because that's where he could play in college. I don't know which position he will wind up at, honestly. All I can tell you is that when the ball is in his hands he can do some special things. Having said that he has the perfect speed, body control, and hips to become a big time cornerback. I guess it will come down to where Ole Miss needs him at the most. They are usually loaded at defensive back so he will probably end up at running back. But they are losing some good defensive backs this year so maybe they will need him more at defensive back. I know (Ole Miss) coaches (Derrick) Nix and (Jason) Jones are lobbying hard to get him in their group. He'll be fine at either position."

The North Panola star has never budged on his commitment to Ole Miss but Mississippi State continues to keep their name in his ear.

"Coach Deshea Townesend for Mississippi State is a Panola county guy. He's a legend around here. He's just a tremendous coach and recruiter and with him being from Panola county it can be an influence. He's never wavered one time from Ole Miss but it's hard to tell a guy like Deshea no. I don't expect there to be any problems because Justin has grown so close to that Ole Miss program, but it's something Ole Miss will have to continue to monitor. Having said that Justin has never told me once that he was wavering with Ole Miss. He has a cousin (Willie Hibbler) that plays for them now. He grew up playing with several of those guys from Panola county that play for Ole Miss. I just don't see any problems coming up but I know coach Townsend is still all over him."

Yancy Porter is the recruiting analyst for the Ole Miss Spirit and he can be reached at yporter@scout.com

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