HATTIESBURG, MS – Alabama Football All-Star squad head coach Ben Blackmon of Enterprise was impressed by his team’s speed after two practice sessions.
The 40-member Alabama All-Star team arrived at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg Tuesday in time for one practice Tuesday night. The workouts resumed Wednesday with two sessions scheduled for the All-Stars as they prepare for Saturday’s 37th Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Classic.
The game will kick off at noon Saturday at Carlisle Field/M.M. Roberts Stadium on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi.
“I saw a lot of good things,” Blackmon said after Wednesday’s morning practice. “We came out a little sluggish, but the kids loosened up and really started having fun. I was really impressed with our speed on defense. Our linebackers Quinton Reese (Ramsay), Tyler Hicks (Thompson) and Bradley Shaw (Hoover) really looked good.”
Blackmon said Alabama’s quarterbacks, Jared Hollins (Mary Montgomery), and Roman Gagliano (Opelika) were picking up the offense well. Alabama’s roster also lists another outstanding quarterback, Class 6A Super 7 MVP Jaylen Mbakwe of Clay-Chalkville, a University of Alabama commitment as a defensive back. He moved to quarterback this season and led the Cougars to the 6A state title. In the Cougars 31-28 Super 7 victory over defensing champion Saraland, he rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns while completing 9-of-17 passes for 152 yards and another score.
Mbakwe will spend most of his time in the secondary, but the strength of Alabama’s talented roster is that several players come in with the ability to play more than one position.
What has impressed Blackmon the most, however, is the team’s natural bond with each other. He told them before they left Alabama that this week “will provide you with a chance to make friends that will be long lasting.”
Wednesday’s workouts backed up his pledge. “The players are getting to know one another, working well together and really beginning to bond as a team.”
The Alabama roster is loaded with Division I prospects – especially in the receiving corps and on defense. B.B. Comer’s Kamore Harris, the only Class 2A player on the roster, is a proven force at running back and linebacker, he is likely to find playing time at both spots. Quinton “QT” Reese of Ramsay, who recorded 176 tackles this past season, is also a strong pass rusher who could be projected as a “rushing linebacker” at the college level. He plans to sign with Alabama.
Alabama and Mississippi will have two more practice sessions Thursday and one on Friday before kicking off the 37th All-Star Classic Saturday at noon. Alabama comes in riding a three-game winning streak after coming out on top for the first time in Mississippi in 2021 with a 20-0 shutout. That win, coupled with last year’s 14-10 victory in Mobile and a 19-7 win in 2020, gives Alabama a 25-11 edge in the series which started in Mobile in 1988.
Mississippi has a 3-1 edge in games played in the Magnolia State.
Cover Photo: Alabama All-Star QB Jared Hollins (10) of Mary Montgomery fires a pass in practice with coaches looking on.