Steve Robertson - Genespage.com

Special to Genespage.com Mitch White looks at who lived up their potential.

Today we take a look at the five-star football prospects the state of Mississippi has produced in the past ten years. A five-star prospect is a potential game-changing “boom” type of player on the college level. We’ll find out if they made a name for themselves on the next level or simply became a bust.

1. Derek Pegues, Class of 2005 - After winning the 2004 Gatorade player of the year award in the state of Mississippi his junior season, defensive player of the game in the U.S. Army All-American Game his senior season, and a couple of state titles at juggernaut program South Panola in Mississippi, Pegues became one of the highest rated defensive backs and overall players in the country as he was rated the 5th best defensive back and 41st overall player according to Scout. He verbally committed and signed with Mississippi State in 2005. The coveted free safety had high expectations as he began his career at Mississippi State. In his freshman season, Pegues did not start any games but still made his presence known with 14 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 2 pass break-ups, and an interception. The next season Pegues became a full-time starter and did not look back. Over the next three seasons in Starkville, Pegues became one of the best defensive backs in the SEC recording 132 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 18 pass break-ups and 11 interceptions. He also served as the punt returner and kickoff returner recording two punt returns for touchdowns in his career as well. In 06’, 07’ and 08’ (Sophomore, Junior and Senior seasons) Pegues was selected to the All-SEC 2nd team by coaches. Also in 2007, he was named MVP of the Liberty Bowl as he recorded 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and two interceptions, one which sealed the game against UCF. After departing from Mississippi State, Pegues went undrafted in the 2009 NFL draft but was signed to the Chicago Bears practice squad in 2009 before being cut by the team shortly after. He then bounced around leagues as he moved to the Canadian Football league in 2011 before failing to make the Saskatchewan Roughriders roster. He then spent the 2012 season in the Arena Football league with the Iowa Barnstormers.

Overall Analysis: Boom - Although his professional career was not spectacular, Pegues was a dynamic free safety in the SEC and his stats backed it up. He became one of the leaders on Mississippi State’s team and made a huge impact before his career wrapped up. He also still ranks #1 in career kickoff return yardage and 3rd in punt return yardage at MSU.

2. Jerrell Powe, Class of 2005 - Powe, the number 4 defensive tackle and 33rd overall prospect of the 2005 class, hailed from Wayne County High School. He stood a towering 6’3 and 322 pounds. Obviously based off size and talent alone, he was expected to step in and at least add depth to Ole Miss. That, however did not happen after finding out he did not complete the 14 core courses required to enroll. Instead of enrolling at Ole Miss in 2005, Powe had to enroll at two different prep schools in 2005-06 before making it to Ole Miss his freshman year in 2007 only to learn the NCAA denied his request to play. After spending his freshman season on financial-aid at Ole Miss, Powe returned to action in 2008 as a sophomore. Since he had been away from football so long, it took time to get back into the swing of things as he had a decent sophomore season, although he did flash his talent at times, recording 8 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception in eleven games. A full year of college football under his belt paid dividends his junior and senior seasons. Powe dominated the last two years of his career starting in 22 of the 25 games and posting 34 tackles, 12 tackles for loss (team high), 3 sacks and a forced fumble his junior season and, after being named team captain, 27 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks his senior season. He was selected to the All-SEC Second team both years. Powe was invited to the NFL combine and drafted in 2011 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 6th round. According to some NFL draft experts, Powe could have been a 2nd to 3rd round pick but teams were worried about his age coming out of college (24) and also felt like he had a somewhat disappointing senior season. After being drafted, Powe was never able to crack the two deep depth chart at KC in the years between 2011-2013. In 2014, Powe joined the Houston Texans but never contributed. In 2015, Powe joined the Washington Redskins but was cut right before the start of the season. He has now signed a futures contract with the Redskins in 2016.

Overall Analysis: Boom - Powe had a tough time getting on the field, but once he did he showed people why he was considered one of the best defensive linemen coming out of high school.

3. DeAndre Brown, Class of 2008 - Brown, one of the biggest and best wide receivers in the nation, stood 6’6 and weighed 222 pounds. He shocked the world when he committed to Larry Fedora’s Golden Eagles over LSU and Ole Miss in 2008. Brown and Fedora were a match made in heaven as Brown flourished in Fedora’s offense immediately. During his freshman season, Brown was the only freshman to earn first team All-Conference USA with eye popping numbers as he caught 67 passes (school record for a freshman), 1117 receiving yards (2nd most in a single season in school history) and a rookie record 12 touchdowns. Also, Brown broke the school record for most receiving touchdowns in one game with 4 vs Rice. In a bowl game his freshman year, he suffered a gruesome broken leg that cost him a game his sophomore season. After returning, Brown was included on a couple of pre-season All-American lists. He led the team once again in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns as a sophomore with 47 catches, 785 yards and 9 receiving touchdowns in 11 games. He missed another game that year due to a shoulder injury. After earning All-Conference second team his sophomore year, Brown returned for his junior season that many expected to be huge. Instead, injuries derailed his season and cost him seven games as he suffered a lower leg strain. Brown caught 20 passes for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns as he noticeably hobbled through the season. After his junior season in 2010, Brown was arrested for disorderly conduct which may have led to why he departed early for the NFL draft. Brown had the talent but many NFL teams questioned his attitude, work ethic and ability to stay healthy. All of those reasons led to him being undrafted in 2011. He was however signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles after the draft but was cut shortly thereafter. He has since bounced around the Arena Football League and currently plays for the Green Bay Blizzard.

Overall Analysis: Boom - Although injuries cost Brown a lot of time at Southern Miss, he still had a great career in only three years. The numbers he put up as a freshman and sophomore are going to be hard to duplicate as he proved to be a force to be reckoned with.

4. Pat Patterson, Class of 2009 - The best way to label Patterson in college is would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. After signing with Houston Nutt in 2009 out of Noxubee County, Patterson was the most hyped incoming recruit for Ole Miss that year. Standing at 6’2 and 206 pounds Patterson had all the intangibles to be a star. Coaches even compared him to Randy Moss in practice at times. Patterson’s biggest problem was inconsistency and off the field issues. During a less than stellar freshman season with only 12 catches, 180 yards and a touchdown, Patterson was suspended one game for “violating unspecified team rules”. He then was suspended for “breaking team rules” before spring practice the following season in 2010. Later that year, Patterson was dismissed from the team in the summer for “violation of team rules”. He shortly thereafter transferred to East Mississippi Community College but was kicked off that team halfway through the season as well.

Overall Analysis: Bust - As stated above, Patterson had all the talent in the world and basically wasted it. His inconsistencies to get better and stay out of trouble ultimately led to his dismissal and career ending shortly thereafter.

5. Quay Evans, Class of 2012 - Quay Evans, rated the highest Mississippi  player in 2012, hailed from Morton High School. He was the number 3 defensive tackle prospect in his class and the 24th overall player according to Scout. After committing to Dan Mullen and staff at Mississippi State in December of 2012, he never wavered on his commitment. After playing in 10 games as a freshman and staring zero, Evans recorded 7 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. Brighter days were expected in the future for Evans. However, after playing in 5 games as a sophomore and only recording 3 tackles, Evans was suspended by Dan Mullen for “violation of team rules”. During his suspension, Evans was arrested for suspicion of driving without a license; but he did successfully take care of academics. After the season, Evans announced he was transferring to West Georgia but never made it to the school. After leaving MSU, he never played a down of college football again. Instead he has been arrested on three separate occasions from the years of 2013-2015. Two of the arrests were stemming from traffic violations but the most recent in 2015 was for firing a gun off at Aspen Heights apartment complex in Starkville after a fight broke out.

Overall Analysis: Bust - In his short time on the college level, Evans never lived up to the hype on the field. Of course he was still young and had time in front of him, but his trouble off the field really ruined his career and never gave him a chance to see if he could become a star.

6. Channing Ward, Class of 2012 - Ward, rated as the 8th overall defensive end in the nation and 34th overall player, was a physical specimen coming out of Aberdeen High School. Ward became the first big-time five-star prospect to jump on the Hugh Freeze train at Ole Miss in 2012 as he committed on live TV at the Under Armour All-American game. After arriving, Ward played in every freshman season game with zero starts and recorded 21 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss. He recorded a season high 4 tackles in the BBVA Compass Bowl vs Pittsburgh. After finishing his freshman season stronger than he started, many expected Ward to become a star and really be a load to handle in the future. After a somewhat similar sophomore season compared to his freshman season, Ward made improvement his junior year with 30 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles but still failed to start any games in his career. Two things led to Ward not getting more playing time than he had received up until the end of his junior season. Ole Miss began to recruit at an elite level which buried Ward a little on the depth chart. And Ward, according to coaches, struggled to grasp the playbook and wasn’t a consistently great practice player. After returning for his final season last year, Ward finally flashed a bit of that five-star potential he had been marked with in high school as he recorded 35 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks with 4 starts as well. Ward also became a special team’s standout throughout his career as he laid a few nasty blows on people during his career. Ward wasn’t drafted in this year but posted some ridiculous numbers at Ole Miss’s pro day. After running a faster forty-yard dash than star wide receiver Laquan Treadwell (4.65) at 4.61 and weighing in at 288 pounds, NFL teams were very impressed with his athleticism. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Ward as an undrafted free agent after the draft this year. He is still currently on the team.

Overall Analysis: Bust – It’s always hard to judge prospects that have one or two productive years on the college level but not as productive the other years. Ward did have a nice senior season but I do not feel like his career was a five-star worthy one.

7. Chris Jones, Class of 2013 – Chris Jones, a former Under Armour All-American and MVP of the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic, signed with Mississippi State in 2013. He was rated as the number 2 defensive end in the nation coming out of high school and the 24th overall player in the nation according to Scout. Jones lived up to his potential quickly as he became one of the Bulldogs best defensive linemen his freshman year. He recorded 32 tackles, 7 tackles for loss (led team) and 3 sacks (2nd on team) as he appeared in every game and started 3. He was voted as a Freshman All-American by several media outlets. Following a superb freshman season at defensive end, Jones sort of had a sophomore slump moving inside to tackle as his stats slightly decreased from the season before. He recorded 26 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. He played in every game but made zero starts. Jones junior season however was his best. He recorded 44 tackles,7.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 4 pass break-ups. He was selected to the 2015 Second-Team All-American team after his impressive junior campaign. Shocking some, but not anyone close to the program, Jones decided to declare early for the NFL draft. He impressed NFL scouts at Mississippi State’s pro day enough to be considered one of the highest rated defensive linemen coming out of college. He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL draft. He is still currently on the team.

Overall Analysis: Boom – Jones had a bit of slump his sophomore season but overall he lived up to the hype of being a five-star player by causing plenty of havoc for offensive lines in the SEC week in and week out.

8. Antonio Conner, Class of 2013 - Rated as the 3rd best safety prospect and 34st overall player in the country, Conner was selected to the Under Armour All-American game. He signed with Ole Miss and began a very impressive season, selected to the Freshman All-American first team and SEC All-Freshman team after starting in 12 games recording 66 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 7 passes defended and 1 interception. On his very first play of his career on defense Conner recorded an interception against Vanderbilt. After a tremendous freshman season, Conner followed it up with another brilliant season as he recorded 69 tackles (2nd on team), 9 tackles for loss (1st on team and led all SEC defensive backs), 2 pass break-ups and an interception. He was selected to the All SEC 2nd team after starting every game. After two big-time years, Conner’s junior season was put to a halt by a torn meniscus that cost him 7 games. He started in 5 games, recording 17 tackles and 4 tackles for loss. After sustaining the knee injury his junior season, Conner decided to come back to school for his fourth and final season next year. It may prove to be wise in the long run as he can show NFL scouts there are no lingering effects to his knee injury.

Overall Analysis: Boom so far - If Conner is on the field, he’s as good as they come at the safety position. He flies around the ball and makes play after play. As long as he can stay healthy his senior season, I’d expect him to return to his original form of being a ball hawking safety.


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