April 27, 2008

Mobile star impressed with Ole Miss trip

Mike Thomas did not intend to make any final decisions during his weekend at Ole Miss, so the defensive end from Mobile, Ala., didn't.

However, the Rebels have emerged as the overwhelming favorite to land the 6-foot-4, 246-pounder from St. Paul's.

"Ole Miss is still ahead of the rest of the competition," Thomas said Sunday night, about an hour after he and his mother, Elaine Jackson, finished the six-hour drive from Oxford to the Port City. "I'm going to hold out and see what happens, but right now, it looks like Ole Miss."

Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt made a very strong impression on Thomas and his family as well.

"I've been to Auburn and LSU and talked to the coaches," said Thomas, who recorded 111 tackles and eight sacks for the Saints as a junior. "Coach (Les) Miles talked like a representative of the school. Coach Nutt stayed and talked to us and got to know us. He's not just interested in me as a football players. He's interested in me as a person. He wanted to get to know my family. He said he wanted me to get my education. He had a flight to catch but he stayed to meet us."

The rest of Thomas' trip to Oxford and Ole Miss was a bit of a whirlwind. He met with Ole Miss defensive line coach Tracy Rocker and wide receivers coach Ron Dickerson Jr., who gave him a tour of the football facilities and a 2 -hour tour of the campus.

"It went great," Thomas said. "They showed me their pre-game rituals and took me to The Grove. They said on game days, it's full of people and the only place you can walk is the sidewalk."

Jackson was equally impressed with what she saw during her 24 hours in Oxford.

"It was wonderful," Jackson said. "The campus was beautiful. It was what we expected and even more. We met Coach H and I asked a lot of questions. We feel really good about Ole Miss."

Still, Thomas didn't give the Rebels a commitment. Thomas said Nutt and his staff didn't ask for a verbal pledge. Instead, the Ole Miss coaches told Thomas to take his time. Rocker and Dickerson will be in Mobile next Monday to watch St. Paul's practice. Thomas' teammate, quarterback AJ McCarron, also has an Ole Miss offer and is considered one of the top rising senior signal-callers in the South.

"We're going to see what come offers come in and maybe see some other places," Thomas said. "Ole Miss is going to be tough to beat though. They set a standard. Now everyone else is going to have to meet that standard."

Thomas said he probably won't make it to Oxford for the Rebels' football camp, but that shouldn't discourage Ole Miss fans hoping to see Thomas in the red and blue one day.

"Gas prices are going up so much and I come from a single-parent home," Thomas said. "I might make it up there for camp, but a lot of coaches will be coming down here to see AJ this spring. I'm going to take advantage of that."

Thomas indicated that he plans to take an official visit to Ole Miss in November for the Egg Bowl game against Mississippi State and he still intends to make his college choice known by early September.

"It looks like it's going to be Ole Miss," Thomas said.

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