When I spoke with new assistant football coach Corey Batoon Wednesday afternoon he was on his way to Memphis to fly out and visit with recruits and coaches.
He’s been actively engaged in the recruiting process for three seasons at Ole Miss but never on the outside.
Batoon has a deeper coaching background than what comes to mind when you think of a candidate moving over from an administrative position.
He’s excited to get back into all phases of on-field coaching including out-of-town recruiting.
“It’s a more boots on the ground mentality than when you get kids in for 48 hours on a visit. Kids are on campus so much now with unofficial visits and through the summer. You’re able to build relationships so well. Now I have the ability to leave campus. They’re always coming to you in your comfort zone. Now you go see them in their comfort zone in their school, in their home. You build so many important relationships with coaches. You cultivate relationships and ties. It’s exciting to get the chance to do that. It’s a new deal for me.”
Batoon’s official recruiting area is still TBA. That will be decided soon as the staff moves full steam ahead into the 2016 class.
He had plenty of recruiting experience at Northern Arizona albeit different than what he expects at Ole Miss.
“I was at Northern Arizona for 12 years. I had a pretty cut and dry recruiting area. I was in that area all the time. I knew how that area worked. I knew the kids that were coming up from the eighth and ninth grades. I knew the coaches to visit, the ones that would shoot you straight. I knew all the players. This is something I’m excited to get involved with. Once we figure what area we’ll be moving forward with the 16 class. I’m excited to get in there and build those relationships.”
The biggest on-field challenge facing Batoon in the spring will be identifying the next free safety, the replacement for two-time All-American Cody Prewitt.
In all likelihood that will be rising sophomore C.J. Hampton, a former four-star prospect out of Meridian.
“It will be tough to replace Cody. He meant so much to the program the last three years with his production between the lines as well as his leadership in the meeting room and off-season, things people don’t see but you can’t put a pricetag on. The biggest challenge, I think, will be continuing to develop that leadership. He was so vocal. He was the alpha male in that room. That’s something that has to be developed,” Batoon said. “We have guys that have to assume that role, and I feel we have some that are capable of doing it. It just was not their role when Cody was there. As they develop roles shift. That’s part of the maturation process. It will be exciting to see a guy like Trae and what role he takes. It’s different for him, but it will be familiar to him because he had a good role model in how to do things, how to lead by example but also be a vocal leader to the younger guys.”
Batoon likes what he sees in Hampton.
“CJ was Cody’s backup and did a nice job. You saw him really come on in terms of the mental aspect. Our defense isn’t simple by any stretch. The checks, the things we put on those guys in the back end. Being exposed to that for the first time, being the quarterback of the defense, that’s a tough transition. That’s where a guy like Cody was so important, being the senior that he was, a really good communicator on the field, a guy who made the 10 guys around him so much better.
“You saw him mimic what Cody was doing off the field and in preparation, to get in the film room, get with coach Wommack on the board, trying to get caught up, trying to learn. There’s so much volume, especially in our league with the up-tempo offenses, not having a lot of processing time. That’s where young guys really struggle. It becomes how really well do you know this stuff? As he started putting in time and it stared making more sense to him, you could see a guy playing with more confidence, making the checks, making the calls. Now you see the athleticism coming out that doesn’t when a kid is having to think and being a little robotic at the beginning.”