Big Dawg: Breaking Down the Commitments

Over 100 players converged on the Mississippi State campus Friday to take part in the Bulldogs' annual Big Dawg camp. The last summer camp has been a staple of the Bulldogs' recruiting efforts since Dan Mullen arrived on campus. The camp brings together the top recruiting targets along with several up and coming underclassmen. It also is a first team meeting of sorts for the current commitments.

All but one of Mississippi State's commitments from the high school ranks attended Big Dawg Camp 2013.

The lone absentee was offensive lineman Jordan Harris of Stephenson High School of Stone Mountain, Georgia.

All other verbal commitments were in attendance in Bulldog gear ready to be put through the summer camp paces by their future position coaches.


With two quarterbacks already committed for the 2014 class, Mississippi State finds itself in an enviable position.

After seeing both Elijah Staley and Nick Fitzgerald throw the ball around Davis Wade Stadium, it is clear that the Bulldogs will add some talent to the depth chart come next fall.

Staley: - A long, athletic left hander who can spin the ball well. He came into camp a little arm weary from the 7-on-7s from his team's summer schedule, but he did a nice job. While it took him a couple of reps to get loose, Staley looked especially good on the deeper throws where he had to use some touch. His ball placement was especially good on the fade where he got the ball outside and away from the defender. Staley missed on some quick slants and underneath routes earlier in camp, but once he and his receivers got better acquainted, their timing improved. Staley is still very raw. He will need to learn to use his lower half better, but that will come in time and with college coaching.

Fitzgerald: - Nick looked really good at the June camp which earned him an offer. He looked even better at Big Dawg camp. He spins the ball extremely well which enables his passes to get into his receivers hands much quicker. He looked extremely confident and he clearly had a lot of fun throwing the ball around at Davis Wade. He is a lot more polished mechanically than one would expect for a QB with limited snaps behind center on the high school level. His footwork needs some work, but I like how he stands tall in the pocket and gets the ball out on time. He made sure his receivers had a chance to make a play on the ball.

Offensive line:

While Jocquell Johnson was just passing through, he looked to be in extremely good shape. He reports that he is currently weighing in at 311 despite sneaking a few dessert cookies into the team meeting room at Co-Lin according to a source close to the situation. Johnson is very eager to get on campus and get to work.

Tyler Jones: - Jones is a good looking offensive guard prospect. He has a square body type that most interior offensive lineman possess, but he also has some long arms to go along with that which will enable him to get his hands inside with greater ease. Jones worked extremely hard during the camp and put forth a lot of effort in the agility drills. While you can only tell so much about an offensive lineman at these sort of events, it is clear that Jones has a real toughness about him and he is a guy who comes to work.

Running backs: -

Dontavian Lee - Lee is currently the lone running back commitment in the class. While that is expected to change soon, Lee looked the part of an SEC back on Friday night. Lee is not quite as thick as I expected, but he has the frame to add some real mass without hurting his speed. Lee shows good hands out of the backfield and the ability to gain separation once the ball is in the air. He is especially dangerous on the wheel route paired up against a linebacker. He is a very physical player who will only get better as he spends time in a college weight room.

Wide receiver: -

It appears that Jamoral Graham has officially made the move from ATH to wide receiver in this class. Graham spent just about all of his time within earshot of Mississippi State receivers' coach Billy Gonzales. Graham was especially slippery in the one-on-one drills even winning his final match-up in the events top five pairings. Once again Graham ran a sub 4.5 40 and showed some freakish change of direction which is a winning combination for a slot receiver looking to make plays in space.

Defensive line: -

Darius Liggins looks the part of an SEC defensive end prospect. Liggins is on the thin side of things, but he has the length and quickness to be a solid pass rusher on the next level. Liggins works hard in drills and wants to get it right. He was especially attentive and doing his best to pick up everything Coach David Turner was throwing his way during the instructive periods.

Linebackers: -

Linebacker commitment Deshon Cooper of Georgia added a position mate on Friday when Tuscaloosa, Alabama standout Keith Holcombe joined the Bulldog fold.

Cooper: - Cooper showed up on campus with coaches and teammates ready to take in the event as a spectator, but elected to suit up after spending some time talking with Coach Geoff Collins. Cooper is a long, athletic linebacker who has the frame to be a very big strong side linebacker. His wingspan is off the charts and Cooper might actually be bigger than originally listed which is a rarity. He does a great job in pass coverage and he is pretty fluid in his movements. A lot of taller guys have to work through some stiffness as they grow into their frames, but Cooper appears to have already done that. He is a very athletic prospect with very good dexterity.

Holcombe: - Once news spread of Holcombe's commitment to Mississippi State, he was an instant attraction for onlookers at the event. Holcombe is another long, athletic linebacker prospect who understands how to go get the football. Holcombe was lights out in coverage and he did a nice job playing the ball once it was thrown in his direction. Holcombe is an extremely smart football player who is especially polished for a high school prospect. He understands how to read out in the pass pattern and can adjust his actions on the fly as things develop. Holcombe can be as good as he wants to be. He is blessed with a lot of natural ability.

Defensive backs: -

Mississippi State was not necessarily in the market for defensive backs this class, but found a pair in state they simply couldn't pass on.

Lashard Durr and Chris Rayford have both done their part this spring and summer to demonstrate their skill sets. Both did a nice job at Big Dawg camp in their final camping event.

Rayford: - Rayford again showed that he has the speed to play the cornerback position at a high level. While there are a lot of fleet footed players in the state, Rayford shows that he knows how to use his speed especially to recover in coverage. Receivers are not going to be able to outrun Rayford very often, so technique is extremely important. Rayford shows great instincts and route recognition after the ball is snapped. On one rep, Rayford was trailing a step or two on the play and then undercut a post route and picked the ball off with ease.

Durr: - Lashard liked to play physical and he appears to prefer press coverage rather than playing off of his receiver. Durr has good jamming ability and he does a nice job keeping his hands engaged once he makes contact with the receiver. He is a good leaper who knows how to high point the ball and is not scared to go up and compete on those jump balls. Like most prospects, he will need to spend some time in the weight room in order to battle with the bigger receivers of the SEC, but he shows that he has the raw skills to be a very good corner on the next level.

Gene's Page Top Stories