football

Bulldogs, Rebels battle for Jefferson

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It wasn't that long ago that three-star defensive end A.J. Jefferson of Summit (Miss.) North Pike listed Mississippi State as his clear-cut leader.
But now the Bulldogs have company at the top.
"Ole Miss came back," Jefferson told Rivals.com on Monday. "I like them a lot now. It's equal between them two."
The 6-feet-4, 252-pound Jefferson is one of the top recruiting prizes in the Magnolia State. A standout in the recent Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic, he is Mississippi's No. 6 recruit.
The Rebels have made their surge since Hugh Freeze was named coach Dec. 5.
"During the contact period, he called every day. Him and coach [Chris] Kiffin," Jefferson said. "They really want me. I love their campus. And I like Coach Freeze. I knew him at Arkansas State. We kind of bonded."
Jefferson visited Louisiana Tech last weekend and has three officials coming up: Southern Mississippi on Friday, Mississippi State on Jan. 20 and Ole Miss on Jan. 27.
The Louisiana Tech visit "went pretty good," Jefferson said. "I had two teammates (Vernon Butler and Tra'vez Taylor commit Sunday before we left. I got a chance to meet all the coaching staff. They're all cool. It's a nice campus, and I like their players."
Southern Miss currently is running third, but will have a chance to make up ground this weekend.
"I talked to [head coach Ellis Johnson], but it wasn't long," Jeffersonsaid. "I was in kind of a rush. He's pretty cool. We talked about the defensive line. He's a defensive-minded coach. I'm anxious to meet him. They're close to home … about an hour away. I have a chance for early playing time. Of all the state schools, they've been winning the most."
Ole Miss may have risen, but Mississippi State has been a leader the whole way. In fact, Jefferson said at one time he was close to committing.
"[Bulldogs defensive coordinator Chris Wilson] came by last Friday morning before I went to Louisiana Tech," Jefferson said. "It went pretty good. We talked and stuff like that. Everything was good."
When might a decision come?
"I'm going to decide after my final visit," Jefferson said. "It's going to be pretty hard. I was thinking for a long time State was going to be it."
Keith Niebuhr can be reached at Keithrivals@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KeithRIVALS.
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