Recruiting Update

Among the high school ranks, the state of Mississippi has more than supplied its share of talented football players, especially among the skill positions. And the Class of 2004 is no exception.<P> We will take a look at a handful of offensive standouts along with one of the best lineman in the Magnolia State, and see what colleges they plan on visiting as recruiting reaches another level, state-wide and nationally.

Two of the state's top running backs have dominated at the Class 5A and 4A levels this year, Brandon Jackson of Horn Lake and Michael McLaughlin of Wayne County.

Jackson, 6-0 and 210, has made note of his early interest in Michigan State, and as of last check, still has the Spartans atop of his short list. Leaving the state would not bother Jackson, although he does plan on visiting Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

"Either way is okay with me," said Jackson about staying or leaving the state. "I have a lot of interest in Michigan State, West Virginia and Arkansas, with Michigan State probably the slight leader. I plan on visiting them along with Mississippi State and Ole Miss."

McLaughlin is one of several Wayne County products receiving recruiting interest, and helped guide his squad to a 5A title last year as a junior. Now competing in Class 4A, the 6-1 and 217-pound running back wants to choose a school that makes him feel at home.

"I have to choose the place that I feel the most comfortable at," said McLaughlin. "I mean, that is the place where I will spend the next five or six years of my life since I plan on going into medicine. And having a good medicine field will play a big factor in which way I might lean."

McLaughlin has drawn offers from in-state schools MSU and USM, and unofficially visited Southern Miss with its battle with Nebraska.

"I have heard State might get into trouble (NCAA investigation) but I don't think it will be that bad and all," said McLaughlin. "I plan on visiting State, Auburn, LSU and Tennessee. Steve Gandy (all-state linebacker) and I might also try to get away and visit Nebraska. It's easier to deal with the recruiting and stuff with friends, getting to compare different colleges with one of your best friends. That is great."

Staying with the skill players, Vicksburg's Maurice Taylor and Starkville's Antonio McCoy may have more interest in staying in-state for their college careers.

Taylor, 5-11 and 170, has already unofficially visited Southern Miss and plans to arrange official visits with the Golden Eagles and Mississippi State. Like McLaughlin, Taylor also has teammates getting looked at just as hard, including highly-regarded linebacker Rory Johnson and lineman Michael Smith.

"I definitely want to stay around the South somewhere," said Taylor. "I am also looking for a school that passes a lot and uses their receivers in the offense. I have gotten calls from Marshall, USM, LSU and MSU and those are probably my top schools right now.

"It is much easier for me to have other teammates and friends going through the same thing and all. It helps you to learn more about which school has this or that. And then we compare what schools had to say and talk about all of the options."

McCoy, 6-0 and 170, spent much of his junior season in the Starkville secondary. But early on in his senior season, McCoy has raised several eyebrows at receiver, including a seven-catch, 135-yard showing against Tupelo Friday night.

"I don't have any favorites right now and the only offer I have gotten is from Mississippi State," said McCoy. "I have interest in all the in-state schools and from Memphis, too. Right now, nobody is really leading with me and I will probably wait until the season is over to decide.

"I definitely want to stay in-state, and stay close to home. I have unofficially visited Ole Miss and plan on officially visiting Southern Miss and MSU and I might visit Michigan.

The last but certainly not least of the updates is Josh Winchell of Southaven. The 6-5 and 307-pound offensive lineman has been tabbed as one of the state's top three performers up front, and definitely has the size and footwork coveted by college recruiters.

But Winchell may be crossing the state lines when the time comes to decide between the 15 or so offers already thrown in his direction.

"I don't have any favorites right now but I have gotten about 13 or so offers," said Winchell. "I will probably go out-of-state, at least that is the way it seems right now. I want to set up official visits with Arkansas, Nebraska, South Carolina and a few others. But unofficially, I have already visited Ole Miss, MSU, Memphis, Auburn and Arkansas."

Paul Jones is a recruiting correspondent for Gene's Page. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at

Gene's Page Top Stories