By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
Aberdeen senior Channing Ward joined the nation’s top football players, including South Panola’s Isaac Gross this week in Florida, practicing all week for tonight’s 2012 Under Armour All-America Game.
Practice took place at ESPN Wide World of Sports. The fifth-annual game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Outside the game itself, one of the bigger storylines of the week has focused on Ward’s recruitment.
A four-star prospect, Ward enters the game as Rivals.com’s top-rated player in Mississippi and is scheduled to make his collegiate choice live on ESPN during the game.
Rivals.com reported Wednesday that he had narrowed his list of scholarship offers to Alabama, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Alabama replaced Auburn on Ward’s list.
After practice on Monday, Ward said he may have made his mind up but wasn’t ready to go public.
“I’m thinking about it a little bit but kind of sure at the same time,” Ward said. “Just got to make sure the situation is right.”
According to a source close to the situation, Ward called his future coach on Wednesday night to give his verbal commitment. He is one of six scheduled to announce during the game.
Ward narrowed his list of 20-plus offers to Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss prior to his senior season. He had 117 tackles and 16 sacks this season and was named to the ESPN All-American Third Team and SI Honorable Mention.
Monday, he and Petal quarterback Anthony Alford were named to the MaxPreps All-America Second Teams.
“It’s been good, good competition level,” he said. “We’ve got some good linemen. I’m beginning to see the real talent that comes from the whole country. You can better yourself.”
Listed at No. 72 on ESPNU’s Top 150, Ward’s offer sheet is also highlighted by Arkansas, Florida, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Of the more than 90 players selected by ESPN Scouts, Inc. to participate in the game, 10 are ranked among the Top 15 of the ESPNU 150, including: No. 1 Mario Edwards of Denton Ryan HS, Texas and No. 2 Eddie Goldman of Collegiate Academy, Washington D.C.
Ward, listed as a 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive end, was thought to have had one of the better weeks of practice. He joins Edwards and Deion Sanders, Jr. on Team Blur and will be coached by former New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs coach and current ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards.
“I played good in practice,” he said. “There was a lot of good stuff that came out of it. I think it’s going to be a hard-hitting game.”