High-SchoolFootball: ESPNU 150

Get Familiar: Antonio Conner

October, 24, 2011
South Panola (Batesville, Miss.) has established itself as one of nation’s elite football programs over the past decade. Last year, the Tigers won their seventh state title since 2003 and state-record ninth overall with their 28-7 win over Meridian (Meridian, Miss.) to finish the year No. 2 in POWERADE FAB 50 ESPNHS Team Rankings.

Tigers coach Lance Pogue has seen plenty of talent come through the program in his five years at the helm, but he’s only had one freshman who was talented enough to crack his starting lineup. That player was Antonio Conner, who started at free safety during South Panola’s run to the Class 6A state title in 2009.

“He had some growing pains, but once he started going, you couldn’t tell he was a freshman out there,” says Pogue.

Conner was even better last season, as he snagged All-State honors after tallying 89 tackles, four interceptions, 410 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He also picked off two passes in the state title game.

This year, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound ESPNU 150 Watch List member has been asked to do even more for the Tigers, who suffered through an uncharacteristic slow start and dropped out of the POWERADE FAB 50 in Week 3 as a young roster got acclimated to varsity play.

But South Panola is on a bit of a roll right now having won three straight and four of its last five. This past weekend, the Tigers rolled past Southaven (Southaven, Miss.), 44-21, as Conner rushed for 332 yards and five touchdowns on 34 carries.

Conner has lined up at quarterback, running back and safety this season, but it’s safety where he prefers to play in college. The Troy Polamalu fan is being recruited by the likes of Ole Miss, Alabama, Mississippi State, Oregon and Tennessee.

“What sets him apart is he has no fear,” says Pogue. “He’s a guy who’s always looking for contact.”

So before you go over the middle against the Tigers, we suggest you Get Familiar with their hard-hitting safety.

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Get Familiar: Tanner Mangum

September, 26, 2011
Tanner MangumTom Hauck/ESPNHSBYU commit Tanner Mangum, Eagle (Eagle, Idaho), was one of three MVPs at the Elite 11 finals this summer.

Not the fastest but the first.

Tanner Mangum’s older brother Parker offered this advice to Mangum when he began playing football in the second grade. It was his way of telling his younger brother that even if he might not be the most athletic player on the football field, he could still be the best player on it if he put in the time to improve.

The advice has stuck with Mangum throughout his career. The Eagle (Eagle, Idaho) senior quarterback knew that if he wanted to get noticed in a state not known for producing elite football talent, he’d have to work his tail off to excel against the nation’s best when the opportunity presented itself.

Mission accomplished. This offseason, the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder shined at the Elite 11 finals, where he was named co-MVP, and at Nike Football’s “The Opening” to establish himself as one of the nation’s premier signal-callers. Mangum is now rated the No. 10 quarterback and No. 148 overall recruit in the ESPNU 150.

It was a satisfying way to cap off what was a frustrating year for Mangum, who missed the majority of his junior season with a broken collarbone. And he’s carried that momentum into his senior season, throwing for 1,181 yards, 13 touchdowns and just two picks through his first four games (4-0).

Mangum has committed to BYU, but he won’t set foot on the Provo campus until the summer of 2014 when he completes his two-year LDS mission.

But before he does, he’s looking to cap off his high school career with a state title.

So what drives this well-rounded QB? It’s time to Get Familiar with Tanner Mangum.

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