Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings, a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. Today we discuss the latest with the nation’s No. 1 outside linebacker JJ Peterson and top 2019 LB King Mwikuta.
Alabama on top for nation’s No. 1 outside linebacker
BUFORD, Ga. — JJ Peterson said he was with Tykerious Raheem “Grump” Jones, who was 17 at the time, 30 minutes before a shooting claimed the life of 68-year-old John Hester Sr. Jones was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to a burglary earlier in the day of Hester’s death, an additional count of burglary and criminal attempt to commit home invasion, according to a story by the Moultrie Observer.
Jones was going to be the starting running back for Colquitt County High School, but now he sits in a jail cell.
“Grump was going to be such a good running back,” Peterson told SEC Country. “He was supposed to be out here. He would have crushed everyone. We were all together before it happened. It was right after a party. I had told him to not do anything wrong. He didn’t listen.”
Peterson has stayed on the right track. He’s ranked as the nation’s No. 1 outside linebacker in the Class of 2018. He has scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia and others. He received a ticket to the Opening finals in Oregon this summer at Nike headquarters after a dominant performance on Sunday.
The odds are stacked against Peterson to fail in life. He says several of his family members have gotten caught up in gangs and drugs; football is his way out of Moultrie, Ga.
“This is so important to me because I can’t stay in Moultrie,” Peterson said. “I can’t stay around my family. All of my family had opportunities to get out, and they never got out. When I get to college, I’m going to turn it on. It will be on.
“All of my people have failed. I’m not going to fail.”
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound prospect has support from Colquitt County coach Rush Propst. Peterson calls Propst his father figure. That’s who drove Peterson to Buford on Sunday in order for him to have a chance to compete.
“He has really helped me through this process,” Peterson said of Propst. “It may not seem like a lot, but he buys stuff for the team and we get our clothes washed every day. That’s just crazy to me. He’s like my father.”
Before Sunday, Peterson rarely had spoken to the media about where things stood with his mysterious recruitment.
It’s safe to call him the most unrecognized top prospect in the Class of 2018.
He has a Twitter account, but he doesn’t use it. He has a phone, but rarely answers texts or calls — that includes numerous texts from Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. To put it simply, Peterson doesn’t care much about the recruiting process.
“I’m just busy. I’m just working on the field all of the time. And with recruiting, I’m not a very good talker,” Peterson said.
Peterson did give up some info with his recruitment. The elite 4-star prospect from South Georgia has Alabama as his No. 1 school. Georgia and Oregon are also in his top three. But it’s the Crimson Tide who have Peterson’s attention.
When he visited Tuscaloosa in the past and put on the No. 6 jersey, Peterson said it just felt right — he was home. Jeremy Pruitt’s connection to Propst shouldn’t be glossed over, either. Pruitt was Hoover (Ala.) High School’s defensive coordinator under Propst in 2005. The two remain very good friends to this day.
“I love Alabama,” Peterson said. “I love the home feeling I get there and how their coaches coach. The atmosphere there is great. I had a chance to talk to Coach Saban, too. It’s nerve-racking talking to him. I just remember seeing all of the rings in there and he had a bunch of chocolate in there — I think it was Dove chocolate. I love it.”
Pruitt sees Peterson playing inside linebacker for Alabama if he were to commit there. Peterson doesn’t know when a commitment could come. He has no visits to any schools planned. For now, he’s focused on raising his soon-to-be 3-month-old daughter, Alexandria Peterson.
“I have to go hard for her,” Peterson said. “I will not fail because of her.”
Grandson of former African soccer great has Tide on top
Howard Mwikuta (pronounced Muh-koo-ta) was a soccer star in Zambia. He played for the national team in the 1960s before giving up soccer for a chance to be a placekicker for the Dallas Cowboys in 1970. Mwikuta was the first African-born player to appear in an NFL preseason game.
His grandson, King Mwikuta, now is a top Class of 2019 football recruit who holds offers from powerhouses such as Alabama, Auburn and Georgia.
It’s the Crimson Tide who’s on top for the Troup County High School (Lagrange, Ga.) standout.
“They just treat me like I’m already on campus and a student,” Mwikuta told SEC Country. “I also love (outside linebackers) Coach (Tosh) Lupoi like a father. I talk to Coach Saban all of the time, too. We just have that 1-on-1 thing going on. People always tell me that they’re scared of him because he’s all business. I just love him.”
The 6-foot-5, 216-pound prospect said his relationship with Lupoi is a major factor why Alabama is his favorite school. Mwikuta has been going to Alabama football camps since he was in the ninth grade, and that’s when his relationship with the Tide assistant started to grow.
They’ve been close since.
“He’s just like the father I never had in my life,” Mwikuta said. “My father has been in and out of jail, and from being in foster care and growing up with my grandma — it was just hard. Tosh has stepped in my life and my head coach at Troup and the other coaches at Troup have really taken me under their wings. I am thankful for it every day.”
Lupoi would like Mwikuta to play JACK if he ended up being a part of the Tide’s Class of 2019. He came close to being the second member of Alabama’s Class of 2019. When he visited Tuscaloosa last month, he said he almost told Saban that he wanted in after putting on a Tide jersey. Like Peterson above, it felt right to him.
“I was ready to commit, but I was like, ‘Don’t do it, King. Don’t do it, King.’ I wanted to take home that No. 24 jersey. I wanted to just take it,” Mwikuta said.
He described what the feeling of wearing that Alabama jersey was like using a fantastic analogy.
“Have you ever been on a roller coaster and you’re about go down a hill and you get that feeling in your stomach?”’ Mwikuta rhetorically asked. “It’s that exact feeling right there.”
Expect the top 2019 linebacker to make a decision before his senior season begins next year. He wants to be an early enrollee at the school of his choice and be an unofficial recruiter for that school.