Mississippi Gridiron identifies the top ten high school running backs as we enter the 2011 season. This ranking is based on several factors and conversations with high school coaches and recruiting professionals, with an attempt to balance a player’s potential and on-the-field production in high school. The list of great players in this state is a long one and some may be left off, but this will get the conversation started as we identify the best players in Mississippi.
This list is part of a series of positional rankings, which will be released daily over the next two weeks.
1. Ashton Shumpert (RB, 6-1, 205, JR) Tupelo
2010 Stats: 1,368 YDS, 15 TDs
Shumpert is 6A’s leading returning rusher heading into his junior campaign, after a sophomore performance earned him a spot on the Mississippi Association of Coaches’ All-6A Team. Coach David Bradberry said of the star back, “He is a complete back. He can run and catch the ball out of the backfield. He is just a complete player.” Shumpert is a First Team All-State selection by Mississippi Gridiron.
2. Kailo Moore (RB, 5-11, 195, JR) West Bolivar
2010 Stats: 2,298 YDS, 32 TDs
Moore is arguably the fastest player in Mississippi, turning in the fastest times in the 100 and 200 meter dashes at the 2011 State Track Meet. Moore used that elite speed to run past opponents for 2,298 yards last season, and is the state’s leading returning rusher. The West Bolivar product is Mississippi Gridiron’s preseason 2A Offensive Player of the Year and a First Team All-State selection.
3. Xavier Grindle (RB, 5-11, 195, SR) East Marion
2010 Stats: 1,485 YDS, 18 TDs
Grindle turned heads at the Army All-American Junior Combine last January, earning an early invite to the Army All-American game in January 2012. Grindle could reach the 6,000-yard career mark this season and should eclipse 60 career touchdowns. Grindle, a Mississippi State commit, is a Second Team All-State selection and a First Team All-2A Selection by Mississippi Gridiron.
4. Demarkus Dennis (RB, 5-9, 205, SR), Lafayette County
2010 Stats: 2,264 YDS, 26 TDs
Dennis falls into the category as one of the most underrated players in Mississippi despite rushing for 2,264 yards as a junior for the Lafayette Commodores. Dennis was named the Oxford Eagle’s Area Player of the Year in 2010, and is a First Team All-4A Selection by Mississippi Gridiron.
5. Richard Hampton (RB, 5-11, 205, SR) Center Hill
2010 Stats: 1,300 YDS, 10 TDs
“He is the real deal,” said Center Hill Head Coach, Alan Peacock. “Richard has speed and size. He does everything we ask of him… just a great kid,” he added. Hampton will be the Mustangs’ “go-to-guy” this season as they jump from 4A to 5A Region 1. In 2010, Hampton and the Mustangs enjoyed the best season in school history with a 10-3 mark.
6. Michael Gordon (RB, 5-11, 185, SR) Velma Jackson
2010 Stats: 946 yards on 83 carries.
Gordon ran for 946 yards on just 83 carries last season, leading Velma Jackson to a playoff berth. The Velma Jackson senior is a Third Team All-State Selection by Mississippi Gridiron. Gordon will be looking for more touches in 2011 and is poised for a breakout senior season.
7. Antwar Ashley (5’9, 160, SR) Gulfport
2010 Stats: rushed for 973 yards on just 104 carries
Antwar Ashley led Gulfport in rushing despite just 104 carries last year. He piled up 973 yards with a 9.36 yards per rush average with 14 touchdowns. He added 95 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Admirals. He had a season high 209 yards on 11 carries against Hancock.
8. Mitchell Cunningham (5-10, 200, SR) North Pontotoc
2010 Stats: 1,415 Total YDS, 16 TDs
Cunningham is an unknown name to most across the state, but the North Pontotoc senior is out to show he is among the state’s best backs. Cunningham has turned in jaw-dropping 40-yard dash times in the 4.3s and is drawing interest from several Division 1 programs. He rushed for 1,182 yards last year with 13 touchdowns, and an average of 8.76 per carry.
9. Demetrius Cain (5-11, 195, JR) Hazlehurst
Cain hopes to run into the spotlight this fall and join the class of 2013’s elite, Kailo Moore and Ashton Shumpert. He shared time with Gabriel Gray last season but should burst onto the high school scene this year.
10. Kelton Smith (6-1, 205, SR) Copiah Academy
2010 Stats: rushed for 1,400 yards
Kelton Smith was arguably the top running back in the MAIS last season with around 1,400 yards rushing. Copiah Head Coach Scotty Cline says, “Kelton is a special player. He’s a leader on the field for us, he’s great in the classroom and a good role model for kids. I wouldn’t trade him, he can do it all.” Smith turned in a 10.9 100-meter time in the South State track meet in the spring.
Best of the Rest
James Booth (5-11, 200, SR) Harrison Central, Quintavius Burdette (5-10, 180, SR) Senatobia, Jeremy Dotson (5-10, 180, SR) Provine, Michael Hubbard (5-11, 190, SR) Meridian, Irving Spikes Jr. (6’2, 210, SR) Resurrection, Darrell Robinson (5’10, 180, JR) Noxubee County, Travorius Showers (5’10, 195, SR) Brookhaven, Bodarius Taylor (5-9, 180, SR) Shannon, Jordan Woods (5-10, 175, SR) Oak Grove
Devonte Davis (6-1, 190, SO) Starkville
Davis could have a breakout year for Coach Jamie Mitchell and the Starkville Yellow Jackets. Just a sophomore, Davis could quickly emerge as one of the state’s top players.
Greg Foster (RB, 6-3, 220, SR) Greenville Weston
Greg Foster is the best player in Mississippi that no one has heard about,” says Greenville-Weston Head Coach, Todd Lott. Foster played in only six games last fall after missing the first five contests. The converted defensive end showed he is a more than capable back, rumbling for over 100 yards on just 16 carries against Madison Central in 2010
Quandez Lee (5-11, 225, SO) South Panola
Lee enters his first season as the starter for the Tigers, following a long list of great South Panola backs. Just a sophomore, Lee could have a big career ahead of him as the Tigers’ starter.
Mario Virges (5-11, 215, JR) West Point
Virges will be the next great running back at West Point. He filled a reserve role last year behind LaKenderick Thomas, but will be a featured player in the Green Wave offense this season.