Four-star defensive lineman and Mississippi State commit Nathan Pickering did not sign this week and plans to wait until February to make his college choice official.
Mark Hudspeth, the assistant who handled Pickering’s recruitment for Mississippi sTate, recently left to become head coach at Austin Peay (Tenn.). Adding those two developments together leads to a simple question: Could another school flip the 6-foot-3, 285-pounder?
“Honestly, I tell this to every reporter, if there’s a school that has a chance to flip me, it’d be Alabama,” Pickering said after playing in Monday’s Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic in Montgomery.
Why does Pickering still like Alabama?
“Ever since the first offer they gave me, it’s been the same,” Pickering said. “They haven’t stopped and they’ve been recruiting me hard ever since. One thing I like is loyalty, and they show a lot of loyalty. They don’t (say), ‘Oh, he committed to Mississippi State, he’ll stay in state, (so) let’s back off.’ They didn’t think that way. They stayed recruiting me.”
Alabama signed 23 players on Wednesday, including six defensive linemen. The defensive front is an area of emphasis for the Crimson Tide, with starter Isaiah Buggs set to graduate and underclassmen Quinnen Williams and Raekwon Davis considering early entry into the NFL draft.
In Mississippi’s 24-20 win in Monday’s all-star game, Pickering finished with five tackles, including one for a loss, and showcased the kind of athleticism coveted by college recruiters.
Pickering — wearing No. 22, a number usually worn by running backs or defensive backs — played nose guard and led a defensive front that allowed just 57 rushing yards on 22 carries.
Pickering also played offense, lining up in the backfield as a fullback, with a hand on the ground as a blocking tight end, and in the slot as a lead-blocking H-back as Mississippi turned to a single-wing offense in the second half. Pickering’s blocking prowess helped Mississippi run for 257 yards on 53 carries and paved the way for Jarrod Conner to run for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s nothing new,” Pickering said. “I played that a lot at my high school. I knew coming into this game, I’d have a chance to play those position. When coach put in that package, he asked me about it: ‘You played H-back?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir,’ because I knew I could do it, and I stepped up the challenge.”
Pickering, though, couldn’t convince the Mississippi coaches to throw him the ball.
“I was saying, ‘Coach, I can catch it, too,'” Pickering said. “But we never ran it. We never had to. It was nice to get back there and show my athleticism.”
Pickering also explained his rationale behind waiting until February to sign.
“I’m waiting because I’m trying to give it as much time as I can to make sure the decision is right,” Pickering said. “I wanted to see who I was going to sign with in school. I don’t want to go to a school where they sign three juco defensive tackles, you know what I mean? I want to see where everybody signs, and that will just give me more time to think about it and make sure I’m making the right direction.
A 4-star prospect according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Pickering ranks as the nation’s No. 65 prospect nationally and sixth-best defensive tackle.