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A visit with 4-star ILB Stone Blanton and his MRA head coach Herbert Davis

A visit with 4-star ILB Stone Blanton and his MRA head coach Herbert Davis

OXFORD, Miss. — College football recruiting is a daily grind, and in the words of country music legend Waylon Jennings, “you’ve got to keep up with Jones’” just to have the opportunity to be in the mix with some of the nation’s top prospects.

RW Dir. of Recruiting Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin has made it clear he is not governed by the state line when it comes to seeking out the best talent, as was the case in the last recruiting cycle where the Rebels traversed the nation to find the top players.

But there are some elite level athletes in the state of Mississippi — and dual-sport star Stone Blanton is one of those. We recently had a chance to visit with Stone and his head coach, Herbert Davis.

Rebs recruiting elite linebacker Blanton

There is such a hub of talent in the upcoming classes, but there is something about this 2022 class that is just outstanding. This group is seriously loaded from top to bottom — defensively, offensively, and on special teams.

Coach Kiffin and his staff have already set an exciting new tone via their recruits and their spring camp and are creating a solid defensive foundation on which the Rebels can build. There is new energy in the unit, and this continues to be evident throughout camp.

Ole Miss does not have to go too far down the road to find an exceptional in-state defensive talent in Blanton.

Head down MS-7 S/ I-55 S until you hit exit 108 for Madison. Take a drive out to Old Canton Road, and you will find Madison-Ridgland Academy — home of the Patriots and of the Sip’s top dual-sport athlete, Stone Blanton.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Blanton is one of the most sought-after, 4-star inside linebackers and outfielders in the country. He is the ranked the No. 10 ILB in the nation and the No. 6 in the state according to the 247Sports Composite. He’s ranked the No. 4 ILB in the country by ESPN.

During his junior season, Blanton was named the MAIS 6A Defensive Player of the year and boasted a 121 tacklers, 17 TFL and 6 Sacks.

Stone and his family have strong roots in the Magnolia State, as both his parents are State alums. The 247 Crystal Balls all have him ultimately ending up in Starkville — both on the diamond, where he has committed to the Bulldogs as an outfielder, and on the gridiron.

However, both his brothers attended Ole Miss so he has experience with the Red and Blue, as well.

The Under Armour All-American recently tweeted his top seven schools, and the Rebels are one of the programs that made his list this past week: Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Louisville, Oregon, Stanford, Texas A&M and South Carolina.

With the re-energization of the Ole Miss defense, there would be no better way to continue the trend than adding a talent like Blanton. (And it can’t hurt that the Diamond Rebels are looking pretty good also.)

We recently had a chance to catch up with Stone and Madison-Ridgeland head coach Herbert Davis on the recruiting road ahead.

Q & A with Madison-Ridgeland Head Coach Herbert Davis

Head Coach Herbert Davis
Herbert Davis enters his seventh year as the head football coach at MRA. A native of Brookhaven, he enters his 29th year in the coaching profession and his 23rd as a head coach. Davis has compiled a 196-85 overall record, and his 61-19 in six seasons at MRA. He has earned MAIS state Coach-of-the-Year accolades four times in Mississippi (1993, 1997, 2009, and 2019). Davis’ teams have competed in the state playoffs 20 times, winning four state championships (Brookhaven Academy-1993, 2008; Pillow Academy-1997; and MRA 2019) to go along with numerous North and South state titles. His squads have also finished runners-up six times. He is the only football coach in Mississippi to take five different schools to an appearance in the State Championship game.

The Rebel Walk: When you see an athlete like Stone Blanton, you can’t help but recognize his elite athletic abilities. What do you think is most overlooked about his athletic skillset?

Coach Davis: His football intelligence.

MRA Head Coach Herbert Davis

The Rebel Walk: What would you say makes Stone stand out at his position and as an overall athlete?

Coach Davis: His speed, size, physicality, and football intelligence. Truly has it all.

The Rebel Walk: What kind of program do you see Stone thriving in the most?

Coach Davis: One with a fun relational but work-hard culture.

The Rebel Walk: What has been his biggest growth as a player in his position?

Coach Davis: Learning the game, watching film and using it to his advantage to play faster.

The Rebel Walk: What will be the biggest goal you have with him this off-season?

Coach Davis: He must be our ultimate leader on our team.

The Rebel Walk: From a coaching standpoint, what sort of x-factors could an athlete like Stone bring to a program like Ole Miss given the opportunity?

Coach Davis: Hard work, tremendous competitor, and leadership.

Q & A with 4-Star ILB Stone Blanton

The Rebel Walk: What would be your hashtag for your recruitment?

Stone Blanton: #Culture. I really believe culture is the root of success.

The Rebel Walk: You have strong roots with Mississippi State but what have you appreciated especially during this time that has led you to still keep your recruitment open?

Stone Blanton: Building the relationship with other coaches has kept my recruitment open and seeing what other schools have to offer.

The Rebel Walk: As a multi-sport athlete, will that factor in where you choose to play?

Stone Blanton: I’m looking to play both sports at a high level and help any program I go to.

The Rebel Walk: What has your recruiting relationship been like with Ole Miss?

Stone Blanton: It’s been good. We have had many zooms and they have been transparent with me.

Stone Blanton makes a tackle. (Photo courtesy 247Sports)

The Rebel Walk: What do you believe is your strongest but sometimes most overlooked skillset you have?

Stone Blanton: My want-to-win and competitive mindset sometimes get overlooked because it is not a flashy skill, but it really gives me the edge.

The Rebel Walk: If you had the opportunity to play at Ole Miss, what sort of things could you bring to the Rebels by incorporating a skilled athlete like yourself into the mix?

Stone Blanton: I believe I could be a leader on the defense and the defense would have a dominant year.

The Fit

Lane Kiffin and his staff have changed the culture at Ole Miss in a very short period and have breathed life back into the program. They’ve expanded the Rebels’ recruiting reach across the country — including with dual-sport athletes such as Bergen Catholic and Ole Miss recruit Tywone Malone, who is going to play both baseball and football at Ole Miss. Of course, everyone already knows about the dual-sport prowess of current baseball/football Rebels John Rhys Plumlee and Jerrion Ealy.

Kiffin and baseball head coach Mike Bianco do an excellent job of balancing and embracing the dual sport athlete and work together to make sure their players have the best opportunities in both sports.

Blanton has not only athletic talent, but also speed, size and strength. His athletic IQ is second to none, and he is an in-state talent Ole Miss would love to have. Oxford would be a great place to make tackles in the Vaught on Saturdays in the Fall and hit home runs in the spring at Swayze.

About The Author

Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo

Lee Ann is the Director of Recruiting for The Rebel Walk. She is a veteran SEC sports journalist and NFL content writer. She is also the Sr. Editor for MESPORTS digital. Herring-Olvedo is a Brown University graduate who loves good cigars, good games, and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order.

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