This much is known about Ashton Shumpert: He's a good prospect. Really good. After that, it's hard to get a feel for the four-star senior prospect from Fulton (Miss.) Itawamba.
That's a compliment to Shumpert's versatility on the football field and his open-minded approach to recruiting. No one knows more about Shumpert's ability than his high school coach, Tony Collums. Yet Collums isn’t even sure what position -- running back or strong safety -- suits his star player best.
“He's got that natural ability at both positions,” Collums said about his 6-foot-2, 195-pound star player. “He's a very good running back and he's a very good strong safety/outside linebacker.”
When pressed on the issue, Collums still can't come up with a definitive answer, “I have no idea. I think it's going to depend on what people are looking for, what teams are looking for. Honestly, I think he could play either side of the ball.”
That's fine for Shumpert. In an age where prospects often try to leverage their stature to play a certain position, Shumpert sees things differently. He's willing to play offense or defense to best suit whichever program he chooses.
“That's pretty hard to tell right now,” Shumpert said when asked what position he'd prefer to play in college. “I love hitting on defense and I love running the ball so I really don't have a favorite.”
Shumpert is every bit as open-minded when it comes to college football recruiting. When asked what schools he's considering, he said every school in the SEC, Oklahoma State, Memphis and Southern Miss. He's also willing to look elsewhere. He said he plans to visit a school outside that area, perhaps Nebraska or Stanford. He said he plans to cut down his list later this fall or winter.
Georgia and Vanderbilt seem in the best position. Shumpert, who is the fourth-best athlete prospect in Mississippi and 242nd-best prospect overall, said he plans to take official visit to both schools.
“I grew up liking Georgia,” Shumpert said. “I haven't really gotten a chance to get over and see anything yet though. That's why I'm going to take my visit so I can see it.”
Shumpert visited Vanderbilt this summer for a seven-on-seven camp. When he couldn't compete because of a minor injury, he made the best of it.
“We toured the campus and talked to the coaches for a little while,” he said. “It seems like a pretty cool place down there, a pretty good place to go to school.”
Shumpert isn't that worried about recruiting. He's just glad to be back on the field. After missing three games with an undisclosed illness, Shumpert returned to the field on Sept. 14. He seemed right at home. Shumpert ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Defensively, he racked up 10 tackles, including six solo stops.
“It's a comfort to be playing again,” Shumpert said. “I felt a little bit at ease. It felt like something was taken from me for a minute. It felt good to get back on the field.”
Shumpert said he hopes to be back to 95 percent soon. Collums is understandably pleased to have his star player back on the field.
“As a football player, talent alone, he has all the ability in the world,” Collums said. “He's got speed. He's got size. He's good on both sides of the ball. He has all the intangibles on both sides of the ball.
"He runs the ball good as a running back and he's got a nose for the football on defense, natural instincts. The thing that strikes me the most is how much he loves the game and his passion for the game and his leadership ability.”
When asked what he’s looking for a college, Shumpert said, “A good program. The team is like a family. The coaches have a good connection with the players.”
Given his unselfishness, college coaches should have no trouble establishing a connection with Shumpert.