Aleric Mullins was well on his way to becoming the top high school football prospect in the Show Me State, but that was when he decided to move to the Tar Heel State, where he broke into the starting lineup at East Wake High School in Wendell, N.C. He recorded 70 tackles on defense as a junior with nine sacks and a fumble recovery. He also started and became a dominant force at offensive tackle.
After his junior season, Mullins elected to move back to Caruthersville to live with his grandmother, but has since decided to settle again in Wendell for his senior campaign. The nomadic existence during the last two years has made it difficult for Mullins to keep pace in the classroom, but it hasn't kept him from excelling on the gridiron or impacted the interest from colleges in securing his services.
Currently checking in at 6-foot-2, 295 pounds with 4.9 speed, Mullins is ranked No. 15 among the nation's defensive tackle prospects by Scout.com. He was recently named the No. 3 prospect in North Carolina, and has offers from Florida State, Tennessee, Michigan State, North Carolina, Iowa, North Carolina State, Nebraska, Arkansas, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma among others.
"Florida State and Tennessee just offered," Mullins told Scout.com's Don Callahan. "It's good to hear from those schools. Florida State has a very strong ‘D' and Tennessee is up-and-coming. It's just good to get offers from them."
The four-star prospect could play defensive end or maybe even in the offensive line at the next level but he prefers the challenge of hunkering down at ground zero of the trenches.
"Everybody is recruiting me to play defensive tackle or defensive end, but I have played several positions in high school," said Mullins told Scout.com's James Hale. "I like playing defensive tackle because it is like playing without a seat belt. We just go because we line up in the gap and attack all the time. I want to play in a defense that is always attacking up-field in college because I think that style of defense fits my style of play."
Mullins' style is an ideal fit for Tennessee's defensive scheme, as the Vols like to get penetration up front and force offenses to go wide where UT's edge in speed can be maximized.
"Aleric has all the physical tools to be a dominant player," said former head coach David Gilmore, who finished his last season at Caruthersville this past fall. "He was an extremely good middle linebacker at 280 pounds which shows his versatility and overall athleticism. He has been bounced around so much in life you know that he is mentally strong and ready to take on any challenge, as well."
Mullins certainly seems to be up to the physical challenge. He bench presses 330 pounds and squats 490. He's very explosive off the ball and relentless in pursuit. He turned in a 4.96 shuttle, a 8.31 in the three-cone drill and a 90-inch standing broad jump at the Scout.com Combine in Champaign, Ill. A starter in basketball he averaged 12 points and 14 rebounds per game.
He uses a combination of agility and an excellent swim move to beat blockers one on one. He plays with good leverage and only needs to refine his overall technique and strength to maintain his effectiveness at the next level.
With offers still pouring in, he remains open on his options but has an unofficial list that represents his most likely destination next year.
"I am still thinking about all the schools who have offered me," Mullins stated. "I am looking at OU, Iowa, Michigan State. Georgia and Tennessee are schools that I really like, but I am looking at several others.
"Before Christmas time I should have my top five down and have my visits done. I'll probably have my decision after that, but before Signing Day."
One thing is for certain: distance shouldn't be a factor in Mullins' decision.