For the good of the team

Mark Dodson can't even get through an interview without picking up a scholarship offer.

The tailback from Memphis (Tenn.) Whitehaven received an official invite over the phone from Texas Tech while visiting with ESPN for this story.

Dodson simply took it in stride for a couple of reasons.

First, he's used to being wanted.

Dodson has scholarship offers from Ole Miss, Arkansas, Syracuse, Memphis, Western Kentucky, Northern Illinois, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Tennessee State. Moreover, Michigan and Ohio State have shown strong interest and given indications they could be close to offering.

Second, Dodson knows he's good.

He rushed for just over 1,600 yards during the 10-game regular season in 2011. While that fell considerably short of former Whitehaven tailback Curtis Alexander's record of 2,379 yards, Dodson has no doubt that he would have eclipsed the mark had he not had a high-ankle sprain last season.

"The record would have been broke. No question," the 5-foot-10, 180-pound tailback said confidently.

Dodson's confidence isn't limited to the high school level. He's already ready to compare himself to Tennessee's top tailback last season, Brian Kimbrow from Memphis (Tenn.) East, who signed with Vanderbilt in February over countless scholarship offers.

"If you ask me, I'll play over him (if I chose Vanderbilt) because in the SEC ... his size is going to be devastating (for him)," Dodson said of the diminutive but speedy tailback. "He's a good player. You better keep your eye on him, I'll tell you that, but in the SEC, speed is everywhere on the field.

"He needs to pick up some weight but he's going to be a great player. He's going to get broken up at the same time."

Not surprisingly, Dodson quickly points to one aspect of recruiting as the most important factor in his decision.

"Early playing time," he said. "I want to get somewhere where I can play. I don't want to sit on the bench and waste my talent because I'm going to do my part in the classroom, on the field, off the field, whatever it takes."

Dodson has motivation for his confidence. He has two super large chips on his shoulder. First, by his own admittance, most of his family members never made it big in football despite having the talent to go further than they did. Second, his dream school, Florida, never recruited him.

But before Dodson is painted as a cocky, perhaps selfish player, ask him what his goals are this season. Even before the rushing record, Dodson points to his team's success. Last season may have put Dodson on the map but it wasn't completely satisfying.

"It was special but I wanted that gold (championship) ball (trophy). Stats or no stats, I wanted that gold ball," the ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect said. "However many (yards) it takes to get the gold ball (is what I'll do this season)."

Dodson doesn't have to pass up yards this season to prove his selflessness. He has already shown that attribute to his teammates.

In fact, he has actually already chosen a school. He's just not releasing that information in hopes that it will help his teammates.

"I was going to make it early but coaches in the spring will come see me," he said, referring to the spring evaluation period that coincides with Whitehaven's spring practice in early May. "I wanted to give that opportunity to my teammates. I'm going to give my teammates a chance to get looked at."

Whitehaven safety Gerald Perry appreciates the opportunity.

"It's going good," Perry said of his recruitment. "It's good when you've got Mark Dodson. It helps a lot. He brings in all the big-name schools. When they come down here, all I have to do is put on a show for them."

For that reason, Dodson said he will wait until after spring practice to announce his decision. Head coach Rodney Saulsberry would love for all of his prospects to announce their decision early so that they can focus on their senior season and his phone wouldn't ring quite as much, but he also sees the value in the delay.

"They may come looking for Mark and they may find someone else," Saulsberry said. "It's happened before over the years so we're excited about casting that net real wide because these guys deserve that. They've worked real hard."

Dodson is using his leverage over colleges to help several of his teammates. He tries to stay tight-lipped, then, eventually offers some hints as to where he might be headed.

"I want to play in the SEC," he said flatly.

That would point to Tennessee, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State. All have offered Dodson a scholarship.

Go ahead and count the Vols out, perhaps at their own behest.

"I feel like they're not recruiting me hard," Dodson said. "I heard from them, but the chemistry between me and the coaches and the relationship is not strong."

Ole Miss has strong connections. Newly-hired head coach Hugh Freeze coached in Memphis and has strong ties among high school coaches there. Moreover, the Rebels' current recruiting coordinator, Maurice Harris, was the head coach at Whitehaven before entering the college ranks.

Saulsberry said the relationships may give Ole Miss a leg up but maintained that the school has relationships with coaches all over the country. Still, Dodson is impressed with what's going on in Oxford.

"I think he's going to be a change," Dodson said of Freeze. "Ole Miss is going to go back to what they used to be -- that's winning championships."

For a prospect looking for early playing time, Arkansas' depth chart leaps off the page.

"When I went there I was shocked. I didn't know that those (top) three backs were seniors," Dodson said. "All of them will be gone next year. The opportunity for playing is there."

As for Mississippi State, Dodson said he will visit Starkville on March 31 and has a good relationship with the Bulldogs' coaching staff.

"Mississippi State, there are good people down there," he said. "That's a good place to be."

That could also be the case in Nashville, as Vanderbilt has certainly made Dodson feel wanted.

"Vanderbilt is a good school," Dodson said. "(Coaches say) 'I'm the No. 1 running back on the board and come join the family."

Dodson's spring will be busy. He'll finish off his junior track season after setting the bar high as a sophomore, winning the 100 meters in Memphis. He'll also try to land some scholarships for his teammates.

Then, if he can get enough carries, which could be tough with blowout games regularly the norm for East High School, there is something else he'd like to accomplish.

"I do have a goal," Dodson said with his trademark sly grin. "The goal is to break the (rushing) record because I don't want anybody wearing '7' anymore at my high school."

A record, a retired number and a state championship. Dodson knows he's good, but he thinks he can be even better.