"Great, Gene, great. Thanks for asking The wife and I had a great time buying gifts for our many elves. They work long hours throughout the year trying to provide quality recruiting information for fans of your website and all the other websites. Because of that, they deserve really nice gifts.
"You ready to finish with the defense tonight? By the way, what did your readers think about my predictions and observations?"
Surprisedly, there wasn't much talk about it other than about Jeremy Bibbs. There is some concern about him because of the trouble he got into.
"Gene, that's to be expected. Some people think that Sly Croom, because he has removed several players from his team, will not give a person a chance if he has ever been in trouble. He's not like that. As you know, based on past experience, he's very willing to give a young man at least one chance. I'm sure that's how he sees the Jeremy Bibbs situation. However, as I said last night, I feel the youngster's leash will be much tighter and shorter than a person who has never been in trouble."
You're probably right, but it's still going to be a difficult situation nevertheless. Well, on to the defense. What's your thoughts about the defensive linemen that are committed to Mississippi State and what do you think about the others that Mississippi State is recruiting?
"I'll talk about the State commitments first.
"Lanier High School's Louis Ellis is a young man who has a tremendous amount of potential. Heck, you've seen him on film. You know what I'm talking about. The kid has great quickness and plays with great effort. That's a great combination. He has star written all over him. The one problem he has is his academics. He's got a lot of work to do in the classroom to be eligible. Even I can't predict what will happen as far as that's concern.
"Hattiesburg's Charles Burns is a defensive end with good size and speed. I'm not sure he'll be ready for the SEC his freshman season, but he's got the potential to be a solid player for the Bulldogs. Because he is a high character kid, he will also represent the university well off the field. You always like to have kids like that on your squad.
"Mississippi Delta Community College defensive end Chad Marshall is undersized for his position, but the Bulldog staff, obviously, saw something that they really liked in him. While I'm not sure he'll ever be a big-time player, I can see him filling a role as a pass-rusher on Sly's defense. He's another solid player.
"A player I really like is Marshall's teammate Antonio Johnson, a defensive tackle. He is very, very underrated by most of the so-called recruiting experts, or, as you learned from last night's predictions and observations, my elves. Actually, I'm really disappointed in my elves in this case, because this youngster has it all - size, speed and quickness. I see him making a significant impact on next year's team. All he needs to do is buckle down in the classroom and get his academics in order. The Bulldog fans will love this guy.
"Quinton Wesley is another young man the Bulldog coaching staff is recruiting. A highly thought of defensive end from Atlanta, Georgia, he really likes the Bulldogs right now. I like their chances. The problem is the 23 scholarship slots the MSU coaches have open are just about filled up when you count the public and private commitments, so he better decide something soon or there may not be a scholarship available.
"I've saved this one for last. As you know, Mississippi State's coaching staff is recruiting one of the top defensive linemen in the nation, Ndamukong Suh. Suh, who's from Portland, Oregon, has liked the Bulldogs even before the Bulldog staff knew about him. Then, thanks to what they saw on your website, they discovered he was interested. They, obviously, jumped on the situation and have been after him hot and heavy ever since. Now, it's down to the nitty gritty. He's really frustrated right now due to the many great options he has. He likes ole John Blake, his recruiting coach from Nebraska, a lot. What recruit doesn't? The man is not what I would call a great coach, but he's one of the best recruiters that I have ever seen. Kids flock to him like the Pied Piper. Then, Ndamukong likes the academics at Cal. He also seems to like how well they have done in football recently. They have moved into his picture big-time. Although he says he doesn't want to stay in-state, Oregon State appears to be a strong option for him since his family could then see him play. The only other school that has a realistic chance is Mississippi State. They have several positives on their side. His sister, Ngum, will be back next year as a manager on the Mississippi State soccer team. She had a wonderful experience at State. His family all likes Sly Croom, but then who doesn't once you've met him. They wouldn't mind seeing him go to State. The down side is the probation they are on and the lack of winning the past few years. Other coaches from other schools are hammering that into Suh and it has worked, to some extent. This one's very, very difficult to pick, but, sad to say, I don't see him being a Bulldog next season.
"There are a couple of other defensive linemen MSU is recruiting, but they will go elsewhere."
The Suh prediction won't go over very well with my folks, but, overall, it sounds like the MSU coaching staff has done a great job finding some quality defensive linemen. Are they having the same kind of success with linebackers?
"Gene, Sly and the family Bulldogs are earning a gold record in that department. It looks like they are going to sign everybody that they want. Jim Miller, an outstanding linebacker from California is strongly committed to them. He will be a very, very solid player for them and will give them a nice Los Angeles connection.
"The others they are after are West Jones High School's Archie Sims, Seminary High School's Tim Holloway and Bruce's Isaiah Thomas. Archie is a guy I know you like to compare to former Bulldog Billy Jackson. I agree with you. Both are on the small side, but are (was, in Billy's case) big-time playmakers. Archie, who I expect to sign with State, has a chance to be a great player. Holloway is a player who can play linebacker or running back. I put him at the linebacker position because he has all the tools to be a great linebacker, although he hates linebacker and wants to play running back in college. And that is probably the position he will play in college. But, if he wants to make it to the NFL someday, linebacker is the position that will take him there. Isaiah has the size to play either linebacker or defensive end. Right now, he wants to play linebacker and the MSU coaching staff have told him he will have the chance when he gets to MSU. Like the other two, I fully expect him to be a Bulldog. He just needs to get his academics in order.
"There is one other linebacker MSU is somewhat recruiting, but he'll stick with his commitment to Ole Miss."
It sounds like the MSU staff has done a fine job recruiting linebackers. What about cornerback, a position they really have a need at?
"Once again, I have to give a hand to the State coaching staff for reeling in some fine talent. Commitment Keith Fitzhugh, a cornerback from Lovejoy High School, has star written all over him. He is a guy who is vastly underrated by my recruiting elves. Look for him to make an immediate impact next season. Plus, he is one of the finest young men you will ever meet. A lot of the credit goes to Mississippi State graduate assistant Paul Gonnella for doing such a fine job recruiting Keith. Paul has a great friendship with him because he coached Keith prior to coming to Mississippi State.
"Here's my sleeper of this class; Tae Browser, another cornerback commitment. Tae has great height and great speed. He was lightly recruited prior to this season, but his performance opened a lot of eyes. He not only can play cornerback, but he may also be able to play wide receiver on the collegiate level. I look for big things from Tae while at State. The Mississippi State coaching staff is to be commended for finding this diamond in the rough.
"Courtland Fuller is another player that has committed to Mississippi State. He wasn't highly recruited, but has a chance to be a solid player for the Bulldogs. He's got decent size and good speed. He's still got a little work to do with his ACT, but he should be able to handle it. Like all the players Mississippi State is recruiting, he is a great kid and will represent State well off the field.
"I also expect Provine High School's Anthony Johnson to sign with the Bulldogs. He has ok size and excellent speed for a cornerback and has a chance to be a very good player for the Bulldogs.
"The last cornerback that State has a shot at is Derek Pegues from South Panola. Will they sign him? Probably not. I would have given State a great shot a couple of weeks ago, but not now. As for his talent level, this youngster has a world of talent, but trying to figure out where to use that talent is the big question mark. He is projected as a cornerback on the next level, but got burned several times by the talented Olive Branch wide receivers. But, that could have just been due to playing both ways or just the lack of playing the position enough. He might wind up being a great wide receiver due to his great speed. Running back is another option, although he needs to gain some weight to handle the pounding from SEC linemen and linebackers.
"There's another one or two that the State coaching are recruiting, but the ones I just mentioned are the ones that they have a realistic chance of signing."
Any safety prospects?
"Yvan Banag is the only one. I don't see the Bulldogs signing him."
Any big surprises out there that we haven't talked about?
"Possibly one, Ryan Perrilloux, the quarterback from Louisiana. Sly made a big impression on him. I know he's committed to Texas, but don't be surprised if he signs with another team come signing day. Will it be Mississippi State? Only time will tell.
"Well, that's it for this year, Gene. If you want to talk again prior to signing day, you know how to get in touch with me. Have a great Christmas and wish the same to your subscribers from me. You have a great group of folks in Bulldogland and they deserve the great things in store for them during the Sly Croom Era. He's a very impressive and talented fellow."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.