Recruiting Article, December 23, 2003

With current running backs Jerious Norwood and Nick Turner headed into their junior seasons and also subject to nagging injuries their first two years at MSU, one of the main focuses this recruiting season is finding running backs who can step up and replace them when the time comes.

Two of the top players in the state of Mississippi this year are running backs Lavarus Giles (Ray Brooks HS, 6-1, 205) and Brandon Jackson (Horn Lake HS, 6-0, 205, 4.43).

Giles, who rushed for over 1,500 yards and scored 30 touchdowns this past season, has four official visits set up according to his most recent interview with TheInsiders.

"I am going to Mississippi State (1-9), Alabama (1-16), Ole Miss (1-23), and Southern Miss (1-30)," Giles told Scott Kennedy on December 21st.

Surprisedly, Giles, one of the fastest athletes in Mississippi despite his size, said, "right now Southern Miss is a slight leader," over the three SEC schools.

Brandon Jackson, TheInsiders' 77th ranked running back nationally, wasn't ready to name a favorite but has set up all the official visits he plans on taking: Mississippi State (1/9), Memphis (1/16), Alabama(1/23), and West Virginia (1/30).

His fifth visit, planned for Michigan State on two different occasions, was missed both times by Jackson. As of now, Jackson has no plans on rescheduling the trip.

Another Mississippi product who has drawn attention from Mississippi State is 6-1, 215-pound running back Michael McLaughlin. McLaughlin, who helped lead Mississippi powerhouse Wayne County HS to its second straight Mississippi state championship, has scholarship offers from Southern Miss and Nebraska but is also interested in MSU. However, the last time TheInsiders contacted McLaughlin, he said, "Mississippi State was calling me a lot, but with them changing coaches, I'm not sure where I stand."

While those three running backs appear to be the three MSU is most interested in in-state, State is also looking at several out of state backs, two of whom are drawing interest from colleges throughout the country: Florida commitment Markus Manson (6-0, 186, 4.37) from Hillcrest HS in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Buford (GA) HS running back Darius Walker (5-11, 197, 4.45).

Despite his Florida commitment, Manson, TheInsiders 15th ranked running back, has plans to officially visit several schools, including Mississippi State.

"I am committed to Florida (but) I will still take all my visits," Manson told TheInsider's Jamie Newberg on December 9th. "I plan on visiting Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi State and Auburn as well as the Gators. It looks like all my visits will be in January."

Walker, a 5-11 and 205-pound tailback from Buford High School who is ranked the 26th best running back in the country by TheInsiders, has not committed to anyone and appears to still be wide open.

"I don't have a leader," Walker told TheInsiders Chris Pool a couple of weeks ago. "Actually, I'm still looking at a bunch of schools. LSU, Georgia Tech, Nebraska and Arkansas just to name a few."

Facing an uphill battle for his services, MSU's offer is 1 of 54 that Walker has received. Those offers include the likes of Miami, Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Stanford and Southern Cal.

Although he has no leader, Walker does have three visits lined up; Southern Cal, Notre Dame and Stanford. With two visits yet to be decided, Walker offered some hope to MSU fans when he talked to Gene's Page recruiting correspondent Paul Jones a few days ago.

"MSU offered (a scholarship) and I know they have a new coach," said Walker. "That is very appealing and I have interest in that program. I talked to (MSU assistant) Coach (Jim) Tompkins and it was impressive the things he said about the program."

Gene's Page will keep you up to date on these backs and any other backs that come to our attention.

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is You can contact him by emailing

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