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August 21, 2008

Northeast Miss. JUCO making waves

Just imagine going from being a high school prospect with only two junior college offers and one offer to a Division I-AA school to receiving two Division I offers and hearing from three in-state Division I schools in Mississippi and a slew of other major programs like Oklahoma State and Illinois.

That's exactly what has happened to former Cleveland, Miss. athlete Heath Blount.

Blount, a 6-foot-5, 295 offensive line prospect went un-recruited by major colleges coming out of Bayou Academy in 2007, but now is becoming a hot prospect among several major programs heading into his sophomore season at Northeast Mississippi C.C.

"It's really been an adjustment," Blount said on Wednesday. "At the same time, it's exciting to go from one Division I-AA offer to talking with coaches like (Ole Miss offensive line coach Mike) coach Markuson and coach (J.B.) Grimes (at Mississippi State)."

Blount came out Cleveland in 2007 and had only offers from Delta State, along with junior college offers from Mississippi Delta C.C. and Northeast.

He decided to go to Booneville because former Cleveland (Eastside HS) coach Ricky Smither had taken a position as offensive line coach at Northeast in February 2007. Smither was elevated to head coach at Northeast last month. He replaced Andy Greening, who left Northeast to take the defensive coordinator job at the University of West Alabama.

"I just followed him to Northeast," Blount said. "I felt comfortable in doing that. My Dad coached coach Smither and my family knows him, so I was comfortable going with him to Northeast."

Blount won a starting job at Northeast last year as a freshman and now has blossomed into a full-fledged Division I prospect.

He already has offers from Louisiana Tech and UAB and is getting interest from Ole Miss, Memphis, Troy, South Florida, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Louisville, Illinois and Mississippi State.

Blount says he's been in contact with Markuson, the Rebels' offensive line coach, for a couple of months and took an unofficial visit to Ole Miss for the Rebels' senior camp last month as an observer (junior college prospects are not permitted to participate in camp).

"I just went over and spent the day looking around," Blount said. "I talked with coach Markuson and he said that he likes the way I look and the way I play. I just chatted with several of the coaches. They were having the camp, so I didn't get to talk much. I'm hearing quite a bit from Ole Miss - phone calls and mail mixed. He's telling me that I'm a Mississippi kid and they would like to keep me in state."

However, Ole Miss has yet to offer and is in the process of recruiting and evaluating numerous offensive line prospects. However, based on the contact reported by Blount, the Rebels are highly interested in the Cleveland native and may be close to offering.

With all the attention, Blount doesn't appear ready to rush to make a decision about his college future.

"I'm pretty much open; I'm going to take it slow, sit back and see what develops," Blount said. "I want to go for the best opportunity and not jump at the first thing that comes along."

When it does come to selecting a school, Blount says a number of factors will be considered.

"There's a lot of things that are important," he said. "I want to go to a school where I can compete. I want to go to a place where I feel like I fit in - I don't want to be an outcast - and I want to go to a place where I'll have fun competing with the guys."

Education will also play a role for Blount, who was valedictorian of his high school class with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

"I plan on majoring in physical therapy and some of the schools have better programs in that than others," he said. "That will be a consideration."

Blount has also scored a 22 on his ACT coming out of high school and registered with the NCAA clearinghouse, making him eligible -as a full qualifier out of high school - to transfer after the coming semester and enroll in a four-year college in January without having to graduate.

Blount will have three years of eligibility remaining to play two years after his sophomore season at Northeast.


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