This story was updated Feb. 1, 7:22 a.m.
Comfort or conflict.
Loyalty or treason.
On the top or on the rise.
Such are some of the debating points probably swirling through the head of one of the country's top football athletes who will likely decide his college future by Wednesday. That is National Signing Day.
South Panola (Batesville, Miss.)
safety Antonio Conner
is a five-star recruit — ranked No. 24 overall in the MaxPreps Top 100 list
and No. 25 overall by 247Sports.com — who figures to follow the path of many South Panola players before him and go 26 miles east on Highway 278 to Oxford and the University of Mississippi.
There are five former South Panola players already slated to be on next year's Ole Miss roster: athlete Nickolas Brassell, offensive lineman Austin Douglas, running back Nicholas Parker plus defensive linemen Temario Strong and Isaac Gross.
"It's a natural connection," CBS recruiting expert Tom Lemming said. "Ole Miss is just up the road from one of the nation's top high school programs. Kids like to be near home."
But when two-time defending national champion Alabama comes calling, recruits have to listen.
Even if it's another 170 miles southeast of Oxford. Even if it crosses the Mississippi border. Even if you would be aiding enemy No. 1.
Conner, a physical and fleet 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior, visited Alabama on Jan. 11, Auburn Jan. 18, Ole Miss last Friday and will visit Mississippi State on Friday.
Whoever gets Conner will get a highly competitive athlete who can play both safety spots. He loves to tackle and can do so in the open field. His ball skills are superb.
He was picked as the state's top player by the Clarion-Ledger and finished with 74 tackles, three interceptions and a healthy 19 pass deflections for the state 6A champions.
As a junior he was more of an offensive player with 1,472 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns. He started for South Panola since he was a freshmen.
"He is very, very fast," Lemming said. "He's one of the top 200-meter track guys in the state." Favorite: Ole Miss
Far beyond staying near home, what favors the Rebels is that Conner has a chance to be part of a very special recruiting class. Ranked No. 22 in the country after No. 6 recruit and receiver Laquon Treadwell
committed last week, with Conner and consensus No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche
very likely to sign as well, the Rebels would likely move into the top 10. That possibility is even greater after four-star defensive end Elijah Daniel
committed recently and according to MaxPreps football editor Stephen Spiewak, there's a very good chance one of the country's top offensive linemen Austin Golson
will join the Ole Miss party as well. The clinching commitment to the Rebels for Conner was likely four-star running back Kailo Moore
, who reportedly is a pretty convincing and influential friend. Moore flipped from Ole Miss to Mississippi State and finally back to Ole Miss on Jan. 11. Contender: Alabama
Conner told one recruiting service that Alabama had the slight edge less than a month ago, but Treadwell's pledge probably swayed it back toward Ole Miss. He can't go wrong heading to the Crimson Tide. He just might not get to go home any time soon. Sleeper: Mississippi State
Besides staying loyal to the Magnolia State, Mississippi State could figure back into the equation if Moore flips back one more time. Not likely. Long shots: Auburn and LSU
Good visits, fantastic schools, but the pull toward Oxford and Tuscaloosa is too great.