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LukeWhat star schools may be missing.

By Luke Robinson

 

I have been a football recruiting junkie as long as I can remember. You could say I was a recruitnik way before it was cool. (Editor’s note: It’s never been cool).

I would literally (and, upon reflection, sadly) sit in my car on Thursday nights to hear the Forrest Davis Recruiting Report on AM 690 back when I was in college. Players like former AU running back Stephen Davis and former Bama linebacker Dwayne Rudd were just high school phenoms back then, and they were too good for me not to know where they were headed.

Since that time, recruiting has gone through a pubescent-like metamorphosis: It is bigger, more popular, and even a bit hairy. Countless websites and analysts have also popped up like a teenager’s acne and made recruiting the third most popular sport in the state (behind football and spring football).

Alabama and Auburn have really taken recruiting to new heights under their current regimes, too. There was a time when just having a  top-100 prep player take a visit to their campuses would send the fans into frenzy. Now, unless UA or AU gets a pledge from a five star, fans barely want to be bothered with the news.

Of course recruiting at a high national level is a great thing and it shows. Alabama habitually wins recruiting crowns in February and has thus won three of five national titles. Auburn stays in the top 5–10 range and has seen success like never before.

However, there is a drawback: When you focus on out-of-state five stars, you may miss out on the local player who could become the heart of your program. For instance, take Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska. All this Homewood High product does is routinely carry the Cornhuskers on the shoulders of his compact frame. Without Abdullah, Nebraska’s  head man  Bo Pellini would probably be commentating on games rather than coaching them.

So what if I told you Bama and Aubie may be overlooking Ameer Abdullah part deux in 2014? (I assumed you gasped.) Well it may be happening, but this time the kid’s name is Keith Mixon.

When you first see the 5’8”, 170-pound senior receiver from Shades Valley, you probably aren’t wowed. Yeah, he’s cut and athletic, but he isn’t Julio Jones or Duke Williams. Those are the cats the Tide and Tigers go after now, right? Mixon’s size may be a hindrance on the surface, I will concede that. However, the chip on his shoulder makes him 6’5”.

Just watch him play. Right away—without a doubt—Mixon’s talent will stick out like Dick Cheney at a Widespread Panic concert. Watch carefully: Mixon lines up and attacks from many different spots. He would be a heck of a return man, too, if teams weren’t scared to kick to him.

After speaking with Mixon and his coach, Bill Smith, I get the feeling he has used his lack of size as a motivator. Mixon knows that his measurables immediately put him behind the eight ball when it comes to getting an in-state offer, statistically.

He also knows that his uber-talented teammate, five star defensive lineman Daron Payne, is the guy that most people pay to see. Payne has the brawn, the talent, and the attention. He has more offers than eBay. Payne has college stardom written in big letters all over him.

However, when you check out the Mounties’ games it is usually Mixon who steals the show. Don’t get me wrong; Payne is fantastic. It’s just that while Payne could sign scholarship papers almost anywhere he wants, Mixon wasn’t even noticed until the middle of last season.

Mixon, Payne, and dynamic quarterback Rashad Louie have helped lead an improbable Shades Valley resurgence. The chemistry these three have after playing together since Little League has propelled their school to new heights.

To paraphrase the rapper Drake: [The Mounties] started at the bottom, now they here . “Here” meaning “highly ranked in the 6A classification” as of this typing. (Editor’s note: It is unclear if Drake follows Alabama high school football).

Let me be blunt and to the point: I believe it would be a mistake to allow Keith Mixon to leave this state to play football. He is currently committed to Mississippi State. Would he listen to Alabama or Auburn? It would be hard not to I am sure, but there are no guarantees. The question is, will either of those schools recognize him before he becomes the star I think he will be? Here’s hoping they take a chance on a kid who already plays a lot bigger than his body.

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