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December 7, 2011
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The 25th Annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic provides a number of key matchups between the two squads. One interesting battle to keep an eye on is in the trenches where the Alabama offensive line will face a major challenge from a strong Mississippi defensive front. Here is our breakdown:
Alabama offensive linemen: Kyron Samuels (Fairhope), Ben Tamburello (Spain Park), Aaron Thomas (Dothan), Daniel Aust (Hoover), Steven Foster (Demopolis), Michael Flint (Oxford), Caleb Peterson (Auburn), Caleb Gulledge (Prattville)
Mississippi defensive linemen: Temario Strong (South Panola), Wil Freeman (NW Rankin), A.J. Jefferson (North Pike), Channing Ward (Aberdeen), Issac Gross (South Panola), Kendall Carr (South Panola), Maurice Bennett (Madison Central), Sherman Boyd (Forest)
Alabama's offensive backfield has been well-documented as a strength with the likes of Hueytown five-star quarterback Jameis Winston and Daphne five-star running back T.J. Yeldon, but in order for those two stars to shine, it will come down to the big men up-front getting the job done. The good news for Winston and Yeldon is that they have some talent blocking for them.
The two tackle spots are likely going to be handled primarily by Auburn three-star offensive tackle Caleb Peterson and Prattville three-star defensive end Caleb Gulledge, who is playing offensive tackle at the event. Peterson, a Southern Miss commitment, is a very good blocker on the edge and does a good job of engaging defenders off the snap and driving them. Gulledge, who is bound for Alabama, has a mean streak to go along with strength and agility on the opposite end.
The other area of strength for Alabama is in the middle at offensive center where they have not one, but two solid options. Fairhope three-star offensive center Kyron Samuels, an uncommitted prospect, and Hoover Spain Park two-star offensive center Ben Tamburello, a Samford commitment, can both handle snapping duties while engaging in battles with massive defensive tackles.
The offensive guard spots are up for grabs with the likes of Oxford three-star offensive guard Michael Flint, Demopolis offensive guard Steven Foster, Dothan offensive guard Aaron Thomas, and Hoover offensive guard Daniel Aust battling for starting roles.
The Mississippi team's defensive line is probably its best group of talent on the field, but it could have been better. The original roster included a pair of Mississippi State commitments - Morton four-star defensive tackle Quay Evans and Long Beach three-star defensive tackle Nick James - but both opted out of the game for different reasons.
Despite their absence, the Mississippi defensive line still has some great talent. That group is led by Aberdeen four-star defensive end Channing Ward. Ward, an uncommitted prospect, is a physically imposing, athletic end with great size and speed. He is a real threat and will give Alabama offensive tackles some serious challenges. Summit North Pike three-star defensive end A.J. Jefferson, also an uncommitted prospect, will act as the other bookend on the defensive line for Mississippi and has a similar skillset and build to Ward. Batesville South Panola three-star defensive end Temario Strong, an Ole Miss commitment, lacks great size at just 6-foot-2, 210 pounds but is able to use speed to come off the edge quickly and get into the backfield.
Leading the way in the middle for the Mississippi defensive line will be Batesville South Panola three-star defensive tackle Issac Gross. The Ole Miss commitment, who checks in at 6-foot-3, 270 pounds, will demand double teams at times in the middle and do a good job clogging things up. Madison Central two-star defensive tackle Maurice Bennett, a late add to replace Evans and James, will be helping in the middle as well. Bennett is currently pledged to Washington State.