Because Gray has been voted a Freshman All-SEC selection by the conference coaches. Activated literally on the first day of November, the Clarksdale kid was able to get in on nine tackles in those give games. Normally this wouldn’t be enough to merit all-conference consideration.
But it was how and when Gray did his duty that attracted attention. Forced into action after an injury to special teams regular Dezmond Harris, the younger linebacker made his presence known immediately with a kickoff team tackle on his very first college play. His other hits also came with special teams, which sufficed among knowledgeable conference coaches who know a new talent when they see it.
Gray is Mississippi State’s lone representative on the 2014 all-rookie team. This is no surprise as far as true 2014 freshmen since only three scholarship rookies signed for this season have played. Fourteen of Gray’s classmates redshirted, not counting two juco transfers; and usually only two of those dressed out. Coach Dan Mullen had first-year quarterbacks Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley in uniform and on the sideline in case of emergency which fortunately never arose.
Nor did any 2013 State redshirts make All-Freshman this year. Again though this is not entirely surprising. Because 2013 was an unusual season in that Mullen played half of his rookies, leaving eight for ’13. Only defensive back-turned-receiver Gabe Myles and linebacker Harris had regular roles and those as backups.
The only member of the 2013 freshman class named All-SEC was defensive tackle Chris Jones, one of the activated eight.
Now with Orange Bowl camp beginning today, those rookies of both ’13 and ’14 as well as the still-sidelined juco transfers will come to the forefront. For these first five practice days Mullen and staff will protect, to varying degrees, the starters and rotation regulars. That gives everyone their chances to make December impressions for spring practice positions.
Using just three scholarship true freshmen this year matched the lowest total of Mullen’s six seasons. In 2010 he also activated just a trio of freshmen. The high was last year’s eight, though none started. Compare that to Mullen’s first year when not only did he play seven of the 19 reporting freshmen, but six of them started a game or more.
These are only the announced scholarship-signed freshmen, not walk-ons or grayshirts or transfers. Only those who reported for the pre-season of their signee year are listed, whether they lasted through the full season or not. A ‘*’ indicates that those who played as true freshmen started at least one game that year. The positions are where those played as true freshmen, or if redshirts what they were announced as regardless of eventual position.
There are special cases too. In 2012, true freshman Cedric Jiles played three games before a hand injury. He received a retro-active redshirt but is listed here as playing. And 2014’s class included two junior college transfers (DL Will Coleman and OL Jocquell Johnson) who have redshirted, which ought to put these older Dogs in good stead this coming spring.
2009 FRESHMEN PLAYERS: 7 *S/CB Johnthan Banks, *DT Josh Boyd, *WR Chad Bumphis, *DT Fletcher Cox, *WR Brandon Heavens, LB Cameron Lawrence, *WR Chris Smith
2009 REDSHIRTS: 12 RB Montrell Conner, DL Gabe Jackson, DL Jonathan McKenzie, RB LaDarius Perkins, QB Tyler Russell, WR Ricco Sanders, FB William Shumpert, LB Deontae Skinner, P Baker Swedenburg, RB Dennis Thames, OL Sam Watts, DB Nickoe Whitley
2010 PLAYERS: 3 DE Corvell Harrison, WR Michael Carr, LB Chris Hughes
2010 REDSHIRTS: 18 LB Ferlando Bohanna, OL Blaine Clausell, OL Dillon Day, DL Kaleb Eulls, QB Dylan Favre, RB Nick Griffin, TE Brandon Hill, LB Christian Holmes, DB Jay Hughes, WR Malcolm Johnson, WR Robert Johnson, OL Eric Lawson, WR Jameon Lewis, DB Jamerson Love, OL Archie Muniz, OL Damien Robinson, DL Curtis Virges, DB Matthew Wells
2011 PLAYERS: 3 S Dee Arrington, DT P.J. Jones, DE Preston Smith
2011 REDSHIRTS: 14 CB Taveze Calhoun, WR Devin Fosselman, DL John Harris, DB Zach Jackson, OL Daniel Knox, OL James Maiden, OL Justin Malone, DB Kendrick Market, LB Benardrick McKinney, RB Derrick Milton, WR Joe Morrow, QB Dak Prescott, OL Nick Redmond, RB Josh Robinson, TE Rufus Warren
2012 PLAYERS: 5 *K Devon Bell, DE Ryan Brown, DT Quay Evans, DT Nick James, CB Cedric Jiles
2012 REDSHIRTS: 16 DL Nelson Adams, DB Quadry Antoine, LB Beniquez Brown, WR Fred Brown, LB Richie Brown, OL Cole Carter, DT Torrey Dale, OL Devon Desper, DB Deontay Evans, DB Xavier Grindle, WR Brandon Holloway, DL A.J. Jefferson, DB Will Redmond, OL Justin Senior, TE Gus Walley, DL Jordan Washington
2013 PLAYERS: 8 CB Tolando Cleveland, OG Jamaal Clayborn, DB Kivon Coman, DT Chris Jones, WR Fred Ross, RB Ashton Shumpert, QB Damian Williams, WR De’Runnya Wilson
2013 REDSHIRTS: 8 WR Shelby Christy, OL Kent Flowers, WR B.J. Hammond, LB Dezmond Harris, CB Gabe Myles, TE Artimas Samuel, OL Jake Thomas, DB Brandon Wells
2014 PLAYERS: 3 *K Logan Cooke, WR Jamoral Graham, LB J.T. Gray
2014 REDSHIRTS: 14 DB Brandon Bryant, OL Deion Calhoun, OL Ronald Cochran, QB Nick Fitzgerald, LB Gerri Green, DT Grant Harris, DT Braxton Hoyett, WR Jesse Jackson, OL Elgton Jenkins, RB Dontavian Lee, CB Chris Rayford, QB Elijah Staley, DT Cory Thomas, RB Aeris Williams