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October 22, 2008When AJ McCarron stopped by for a day at Ole Miss on his way to Arkansas State's football camp this summer, he left impressed.
McCarron liked the Rebels' football facilities. He had a great visit with Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and offensive coordinator Kent Austin. He was wowed by the proliferation of beautiful young women on the campus. Despite a strong verbal commitment to Alabama, McCarron promised Nutt that he'd return in the fall and give the first-year Ole Miss coach a chance to sell his program.
McCarron plans to fulfill that promise. The four-star quarterback from Mobile (St. Paul's), Ala., will take an official visit to Ole Miss on Nov. 1-2. He'll make it to Oxford after playing his high school game on Oct. 31 and he'll be in the stands for the Rebels' Nov. 1 game against SEC West foe Auburn.
"I just want to come see the atmosphere," McCarron said Tuesday night. "I like talking to Coach Nutt. He's a cool coach. I went up there this summer and stopped by and talked to him. Everyone's always talking about how nice Ole Miss is and their facilities and everything. I figured I'd go back and visit with Coach and talk to him and see how everything's going.
"It's a very nice campus. I didn't picture it being anything like that. It looked like they'd just planted all the trees. All the facilities are nice. Everything's right there for all the players. They have a good set-up for their program. Coach Nutt's going to do a great job getting them in the right direction like they had with Eli (Manning) and that group."
Alabama remains more than a prohibitive favorite. McCarron was very frank about where the Crimson Tide stands in the race for his signature. Barring a shake-up in Tuscaloosa, McCarron will almost certainly be signing with Nick Saban's program on Feb. 7. Should something unforeseen happen, however, Ole Miss and Oklahoma are the two programs that have caught McCarron's eye.
"You always have to have a back-up plan in case something totally goes wrong," McCarron said. "There are crazy things that go wrong with coaches in college football. You don't want to be stuck without a backup plan. Right now, if something crazy happens, those schools are my backup plan.
"I'm 99.9 percent sure I'm going (to Alabama), but if something crazy happens, I'll have a backup plan. I'm pretty sure Alabama is the right place for me. The relationship I have with Coach Saban and Coach (McElwain) is pretty special. I talk to Coach Saban as much as I can. Coach Mac has gotten real close with me. He's really gotten to know me and he's almost like a father figure and a best friend also.
"I don't think (the visit to Ole Miss) will confuse me at all. I liked visiting with those coaches when I met them this summer. Being committed already, I'm just going there to have fun and see how everything is. In case something goes wrong, I'll know where I want to go."
McCarron said he's been impressed by Ole Miss' offense this fall. The Rebels are 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the Southeastern Conference going into Saturday's game at Arkansas. Ole Miss won at Florida, but the Rebels have suffered close losses to Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and most recently, Alabama.
"I told everybody at my school that I thought Ole Miss had a really good shot of playing in the SEC Championship Game," McCarron said. "People thought I was retarded, but they are a very good team. They are very underrated. The SEC is so tough. Everybody beats up on everybody, but they haven't shocked me at all. I knew they'd be very skilled on offense. I wish they would let Jevan (Snead) throw the ball a little bit more. They have a bunch of skill players. I wish they'd open it up a little more."
The 6-foot-4, 189-pound McCarron is rated by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 90 overall prospect and the No. 6 pro-style quarterback.