May 20, 2010

Moncrief turns tiny Miss. town into tourist attraction

In the last United States census, conducted 10 years ago, Raleigh, Miss., had 1,255 residents.

Raleigh, some 42 miles southeast of Jackson, isn't exactly a tourist's haven. Yet visitors flocked there this spring, and they weren't there to see the Smith County Courthouse.

Instead, college coaches from across the country came to see Raleigh wide receiver Donte Moncrief, who is quickly making quite a name for himself as one of the Southeast's fastest-rising prospects.

"It felt kind of weird at first," said Moncrief, who scored two touchdowns and added seven tackles and an interception in Raleigh's jamboree competitions against Vicksburg and Collins late last week. "I had to get used to it. Now I'm ready for it. …It was kind of a shocker because nobody at our school had had it happen to them."

Moncrief, who has offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Memphis and UAB, said one coach after another commented about his combination of size and athleticism.

"They said they like my size and they like my soft hands," said Moncrief, who is pushing 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds. "They said they could run a lot of screens with my size."

With spring completed and the school year all but done, Moncrief is turning his attention to what will be a busy summer. He's planning to camp at both Oklahoma and Ole Miss in early June. Then he'll attend a 7-on-7 tournament at Alabama and make appearances at both UCLA and Auburn before turning his full attention to his senior season.

He's planning to make the trips to Oklahoma and Ole Miss with Madison, Miss., wide receiver Tobias Singleton. The duo has become good friends during the last year, and they both stay in contact with a trio of other top prospects from the Magnolia State -- Batesville wide receiver Nickolas Brassell, Ocean Springs wide receiver Joseph Morrow and Greenwood cornerback Jermaine Whitehead.

"We all talk a lot," Moncrief said. "We stay in touch."

Those conversations, Moncrief said, often turn to recruiting. The group, he admitted, frequently talks about possibly going to the same school.

"That would be a great thing," Moncrief said. "That would be great -- five top prospects from Mississippi going to the same place."

Could it happen or is that just fantasy?

"There's a 70 percent chance it might happen," Moncrief said. "There's a 30 percent chance it might not."

Of the five prospects, only Whitehead has made a non-binding verbal pledge. Whitehead committed to Mississippi State last month, though several schools _ including Ole Miss and Alabama _ are still recruiting him vigorously.

Ole Miss has made Moncrief a priority, too.

"Me and (Ole Miss wide receivers) Coach (Ron) Dickerson are like best friends," Moncrief said. "We stay in contact all the time."

Alabama, Moncrief's childhood favorite team, has not yet offered. If the Crimson Tide does extend a scholarship Moncrief's way, he won't be automatically Tuscaloosa-bound.

"I'd view them as another school recruiting me," Moncrief said. "Even though I've been a big Alabama fan since I was small, I'd give other schools a chance. You never know what they'll show me."

Moncrief has a 3.3 core grade-point average. He'll take the ACT for the first time in June.

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