"It was special for me to lead our school to its first state championship
in my first year as a starter," Dickens said. "I was just a sophomore and we didn't lose a game.
Next year we want to get one more. Winning one is special but if our class can
get two before we leave here it would put a stamp that our class was the best
in Olive Branch's school history."
Last season the hybrid defender collected 132 tackles, nine for loss and four passes
defended. On offense he had over 400 yards and four touchdowns while bringing back
two kickoffs for touchdowns.
"I feel a little more natural at safety than anywhere else, but they put
me in the box (on defense) on certain downs. I have the ability to read the
offensive plays and break on the ball. I have good ball skills and my form tackling
is good. I also cause a lot of fumbles."
Dickens feels like the added speed he gained between his sophomore and junior
seasons was a big contributor to his success this past year.
"My speed definitely improved a lot. I'm running in the 4.4s now. And
as I played more I played faster because I knew what I was doing out there.
I was more loose and playing with reckless abandonment. My leadership sills
improved too since I was not an underclassman anymore. My senior year I want
to keep getting better in better in all of those phases and become the best
player in the state."
Olive Branch head coach, Scott Samsel, believes Dickens is a star in the making on the next level.
"Alfred has been a two-year starter for us," Samsel said. "He
was our leading tackler this year and I think second as a sophomore. He's our
roll down safety. He can play on the hash. He can roll down and play a linebacker
and play in the box. He can play the outside linebacker spot if you need him
to. Alfred is just a great athlete who is 6' 1", 200-pounds and can a 4.4
40. He's our problem solver. Wherever there's a problem we try to put him
there. In the state championship as a sophomore our middle linebacker got hurt
and we had to put him at middle linebacker and he made 19 tackles and never
practiced there. In my opinion, this year he was the second best football player
in the state besides Antonio Conner."
Would the rover linebacker that so many colleges use now in the 4-2-5 scheme
be Dickens' ideal spot on the collegiate level?
"Yes, I think so," Samsel said. "Strong safety is what we used
to call it back in the old days. I think that's his deal but he can roll back
and play on the hash. He's a smart kid who will be no problem being a qualifier
and just a big time prospect that already has a couple of SEC offers and several
more will be coming shortly."
Dickens has already set out a few personal goals for his senior season.
"I want to be a Dandy Dozen and make the MS-AL All-Star game and one national
All-Star game. I would also like to get my ranking up to at least a four-star and
hopefully a five-star. Of course, team wise, the only goal is to win one more."
What will Dickens need to do to garner that four or five-star ranking?
"I need to work on my man coverage. Sometimes at safety you have to cover
the slot receiver so I need to work on my press and hip flexibility. That's
really about it."
The 2012 All-Star selection was offered by MSU in the fall and Ole Miss last
"I want to stay in-state and those are the two in-state schools I like. Both
of them have great schools, coaches and players. I want to be around a great
academic program that wins games. Both of them are doing that. I'm just going
to let it play out and see which one is best for me."
Dickens' sister attends Ole Miss which gives him some familiarity for the campus
that is located 50 miles south of home.
"My sister is a sophomore there so I have been going over there a bunch
to hang out with her. I've gotten to know a lot of people at that school because
I've been down there so much, and a lot of people from around here go there.
It's a great atmosphere down there. It has that family feel, and they love
their football in that community. They have great dorms and football facilities
Will Dickens' sister being at Ole Miss have any influence on his decision?
"She's pushing me pretty hard to get me down there. It might have
a big influence with my decision because it's nice to be around your family
and friends, but I'm still going to have to weigh my options. But really has
gotten my attention about Ole Miss is the their recruiting class. That really
stands out to me right now They had a top three class and landed the number
one player in the country and several of the top players at different positions.
They signed five five-stars and that is huge for the future of their program. They
are getting the best players in the country and the best players in Mississippi.
They're on the rise right now."
What did Ole Miss say to Dickens when they extended a scholarship offer last
"Coach Freeze told me he liked how physical and athletic I am. He also
likes the way I carry myself. I told him about my academics, and he told me
already checked on that. He was proud at how I take care of my duties off of
the field and in the classroom. Coach Freeze said that getting my degree and
becoming a man was priority number one, and if I did that, then football would
naturally fall in place for me. He just wants to develop me into a man and said
he was looking for a lot of high character players like myself who can play
the game of football. He asked me if I could come over there for their Elite
junior day in April, and I told him I would be there."
MSU also brings a lot to the table.
"I know a lot about MSU. I am going to their junior day Saturday and talk to
coach (Tim) Brewster. We talk time to time. He checks in with me every couple
of days or so. They also like how physical I play and how hard I work. I am
not the flashy type of player. I just got out there and make plays and they
love that about me. MSU tells me that I have a big future in front of me and
they hope it is at MSU."
State brought in a top-25, nationally-rated recruiting class and that has also
caught Dickens' eye.
"They had a really good class too with Chris Jones going there. All of
their coaches are just great mentors towards their players. They make you into
a man at MSU. They are the type of people I want to be around for the next four
years of my life."
Alfred has had a chance to visit the MSU campus on several occasions.
"I attended some game their this fall and went to their Elite Jr Day this
month. I have visited them a few times actually. I have been there more than
a couple of times. I will put it at that."
Is there any out of state interest?
"Auburn is showing me a lot of interest. Coach (Melvin) Smith recruited
me when he was at MSU and now he is there, so. He likes me a lot. LSU, Georgia,
Alabama, and Arkansas are also talking to me a lot."
Yancy Porter is the Mississippi Scout for Scout.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org