Monday Morning Coffee Break

How did MSU do this recruiting season? Here's one man's opinion.

Another recruiting season is signed, sealed and delivered. The many recruiting services will come up with their own rankings, mostly based on talent. What I'll do here is give you my opinion as to how the Mississippi State coaching did filling their needs.

Since the saying is defenses win championships, I'll evaluate the defense first.


Although the defensive line was young, for the most part, last year, the Bulldog staff still wanted to find several tackles and ends to beef the line up a little more.

MSU signed five or six players (3 or 4 defensive tackles and 2 defensive ends).

  • DT Jessie Bowman, Brookhaven HS
  • DT Louis Ellis, Lanier HS
  • DT Antonio Johnson, Miss. Delta CC
  • DE Quinton Wesley, Crim HS
  • DE Charles Burns, Hattiesburg HS
  • DT Anthony Dunning, Coffeeville (AL) HS

    Two of the players will probably play junior college or prep ball next year (Bowman and Ellis). Two, Johnson and Wesley, have a great chance to play immediately.

    Johnson is a big, strong youngster who will be able to fill a hole in the middle, while Wesley gives the Bulldogs that rush end they sorely lacked last season.

    Most recruiting services project Dunning as an offensive lineman, but the MSU coaching staff will give him a long look at defensive tackle when he gets to campus.

    The ones that got away. (This is based on players who gave MSU serious thought.)

  • Ndamukong Suh, a national recruit from Portland, OR. Suh, whose sister played on the MSU soccer team the past four years, chose Nebraska over the Bulldogs. He officially visited MSU.
  • Dan Williams, a three-star lineman from East High School in Memphis, TN, chose Tennessee over the Bulldogs. He officially visited MSU.
  • Trey Bryant, a two-star lineman from Berkner High School in Richardson, TX, chose Baylor over the Bulldogs. He officially visited MSU.

    Who did MSU hurt the most?

    Ole Miss offered scholarships to Ellis, Burns and Wesley.

    GRADE: C+. (The academics of Bowman and Ellis and the ones that got away lower this grade to a C. The + is added to the C due to the talent that was already on campus prior to this recruiting season.)


    A lack of depth hurt the Bulldogs last year. Because of that, the coaching staff zeroed in on several linebackers that have the ability to play immediately. They signed two, three if you count Tim Holloway.

  • Jimmy Miller, Venice HS. One of the top linebackers in the country. Plays with an attitude. Had offers from 15 to 20 schools.
  • Archie Sims, West Jones HS. The best outside linebacker in the state of Mississippi. Plays sideline to sideline.
  • Tim Holloway, Seminary HS. The best middle linebacker prospect in the state of Mississippi. Great size and athleticism to go along with his solid speed.

    The one that got away.

  • Jimmy Johns, Brookhaven HS. Johns was a lean to MSU until his official visit to Alabama. He committed during the visit and didn't officially visit any other schools. He would have been given a shot at QB, but would have wound up at LB, most likely.

    Who did MSU hurt the most?

    Ole Miss came in a close second for Sims. Alabama and Nebraska both offered and tried hard to get a visit from Miller. Holloway chose MSU over Southern Miss.

    GRADE: B+. (The only thing keeping this from being an A is the loss of Johns.)


    The MSU coaching staff wanted to sign pure cornerbacks in the worst way this year. Did they succeed? The answer is a resounding YES!

    Who did they sign?

  • Derek Pegues, South Panola HS. After his performance in the US Army All-American Bowl Game, Derek may have shown that he is the top cornerback in the nation. When you draw up what you want a cornerback to be, he is it.
  • Keith Fitzhugh, Lovejoy HS. Keith has tremendously quick feet, great speed, a 41" vertical, and very good strength. One of the best in the nation. 20+ offers prove it.
  • Anthony Johnson, Provine HS. Anthony is the second best cornerback in the state of Mississippi and one of the best in the southeast.
  • Jarvis Kyles, Baldwin HS. A sleeper who may surprise folks. Can play CB or S.
  • Blake McAdams, from Ripley HS, is a tough hombre who will play safety as well as punt.

    Pegues, Johnson and Fitzhugh will play immediately. If they live up to their billing, the MSU cornerback positions are taken care of for the next four years.

    The ones that got away.

  • Lionel Mitchell, a DB from Hargrave Military Academy was supposed to visit MSU, but never did. He wound up signing with Alabama.
  • Courtland Fuller decided he didn't want to grayshirt so he signed with Troy.
  • Did you know that Edorian McCullough, a 4-star cornerback from CC of San Francisco who started for Texas as a freshman prior to transferring to juco, wanted to be a Bulldog even after he committed to Oregon State? However, his academics were too suspect, so the staff didn't pursue him. He is also an outstanding track athlete who has run a best 100 meters of 10.08. He wound up signing with Oregon State.

    Who did MSU hurt the most?

    Ole Miss came in second for Pegues and third for Johnson. Everybody in the SEC wanted Pegues and Fitzhugh.

    GRADE: A+. (MSU got the ones at the top of their recruiting board. You can't ask for more than that.)

    Now, to the offense.


    Although Mississippi State has two young quartebacks in Omarr Conner and Michael Hening, the coaching staff wanted to find two more talented QBs to go along with them. They keyed on four and got two.

    The two they signed.

  • Ty Evans, Lexington HS. Ty is a smart QB with very good arm strength. He pays attention to the details, which is something Coach Croom looks for in a player.
  • Tray Rutland, Tri-Cities HS. Tray has a super strong arm and very good mobility. He impressed the coaching staff so much as a QB they decided to stick with him there after first thinking he was a wide receiver. An injury during the season caused a lot of schools to back off. He is fine, now.

    Both give MSU the potential of solid backup for next year and a good QB future the next few years.

    The one that got away.

  • Ryan Perrilloux, one of the top two QBs in the nation, chose LSU over MSU and Texas. He officially visited MSU.
  • Jimmy Johns might have played QB at State, but was projected as a LB. He signed with Alabama. He never officially visited MSU.

    Who did MSU hurt the most?

    Tray committed to Tulane, but backed off after taking his official visit to MSU.

    GRADE: B. (Ty and Tray are both good QBs. Perrilloux would have made this grade an A+.)


    MSU's coaching staff looked across the nation for a big RB who could come in and back up senior Jerious Norwood. They went hard after Marlon Lucky and James Davis, only to come up short. A positive is they found the fullback they wanted.

  • Brandon Hart, from Troup County HS, is a fullback the Bulldogs offered early and stuck with the offer throughout the recruiting process. He is a bruiser with good hands and solid speed.
  • Tim Holloway, Seminary HS. Tim has the big size the MSU coaching staff was looking for. His speed is ok, but not great. He will be given a long shot at RB. If he doesn't succeed there, he will wind up at middle linebacker.

    The ones that got away.

  • Marlon Lucky, one of the nation's best running backs, chose Nebraska over many, including MSU. He never officially visited MSU.
  • James Davis, a great running back from Georgia, chose Clemson over a host of schools, including MSU. He never officially visited MSU.
  • Jeremy Bibbs, a big-time talent from Northwest Rankin HS, was also a player MSU set their sights on. Legal problems have clouded his future.

    Who did MSU hurt the most?

    Southern Miss came in second for Holloway.

    GRADE: C-. (While MSU signed their fullback, they also needed to sign a big RB with big-time talent to take over for Norwood after he concludes his senior season next year. However, they came up short unless Holloway proves to be the answer.)

    TIGHT END...

    With several young tight ends on campus, this was a position that wasn't a high priority. MSU had one scholarship to offer. Whomever took it first was their guy.

    Who did they sign?

  • Michael Gates, a TE/OL from Sandy Creek HS, said yes to the Bulldogs offer. Gates has tremendous athletic ability and will probably be moved to the OL. Since he hasn't played much football, he is a long-term project. Most schools didn't recruit him due to that.

    The one that got away.

  • Carey Bonner, Huntsville HS, chose Louisville. He had an offer from MSU, but when Gates committed to the Bulldogs, they cooled on him. He officially visited MSU.

    Who did MSU hurt the most?

    Ole Miss and Middle Tennessee tried to get Gates in for a visit, but didn't really push it that much. Kentucky wanted him to grayshirt.

    GRADE: B. (MSU got one of the two they were after. However, this really wasn't a high priority position.)


    Next to offensive line, talented wide receivers were must signs for the Bulldog coaching staff. It looked bleak during the early and middle part of the recruiting season, but a major coup near the end of the process saved this from being a disaster.

    Who did they sign?

  • Corey Gardhigh, the top rated WR in the state of Georgia, was recruited by most of the SEC schools early on, but his academics caused just about everybody to back off. MSU stayed with him and got his signature.
  • Tay Bowser, from Gilmer HS, has the potential to be a very good WR. Coach Croom liked him as a WR after watching him in practice. He has size, speed and leaping ability. His lack of strength will hurt his chances of playing early.
  • Aubrey Bell, a nice size WR from Mattie T. Blount HS, has most of what MSU is looking for. The only question mark is his speed. If it is better than expected, he could be a surprise.
  • Adron Chambers, from Pensacola HS, is a small, but very guick athlete who will be moved to WR. He suffered an ACL injury, so that could affect his freshman season.

    Gardhigh should come in and play immediately. Chambers is also another possibility if his knee is healed.

    The ones that got away. All visited MSU.

  • James Lewis, Venice HS, chose Colorado over MSU. However, due to academics, don't be surprised to see him playing juco ball next year.
  • Marcus Jones, Southeast Whitfield County HS, chose Duke over several colleges, including MSU.
  • Nick Kyles, Baldwin HS, chose Alabama over MSU and several others.
  • Jared Cook, North Gwinnett HS, chose South Carolina over MSU.
  • Kerry Reed, Coffeyville CC, chose Texas A&M over MSU and a couple of others.
  • Richard Goodman, St. Thomas Aquinas HS, chose Florida State over MSU and a couple of others.

    Who did MSU hurt the most?

    Gardhigh committed to Marshall, but immediately committed to MSU on his visit.

    GRADE: C-. (If I gave this grade for the signing of Gardhigh alone, it would have been an A, but MSU lost out on almost all of their top WR prospects. If Julius McClellan winds up signing with MSU (which appears to be more and more doubtful), this grade will go up to a B+.)


    This is the position that MSU needed to find immediate help. They signed a few and lost a few.

    Who did they sign?

  • Calvin Wilson, from Hattiesburg, was probably MSU's number one OL prospect. He has size, strength and solid speed. Most of the SEC was after him.
  • Johnny Carpenter, Citronelle HS, is a guy that has the attitude of former MSU OL David Stewart. An Alabama native, Johnny wasn't recruited by Alabama and Auburn, but could turn out to be one of the steals of this class. Projected as MSU's future center.
  • Craig Jenkins, Pearl HS, has the size you look for in an OT. He will have every opportunity to play next season, but may need to redshirt.
  • Chris Spencer, Meridian HS, also has the size and the quickness to be a great OL. All he lacks is the strength.
  • James Redmond, Co-Lin CC, is projected as MSU's starting LT next season.

    Expect Wilson, Redmond and Carpenter to play next season.

    The ones that got away. All three visited MSU.

  • Josh McNeil, Collins HS, chose Tennessee over MSU. He was a top priority for MSU.
  • Malcolm Rawls, East HS, chose Tennessee over several colleges, including MSU.
  • Duke Robinson, Booker T. Washington HS, chose Oklahoma over a host of schools, including MSU.

    Who did MSU hurt the most?

    Ole Miss tried to get Carpenter and Wilson in for visits, but failed on both accounts. Because Spencer and Jenkins committed very early in the recruiting process, most schools backed off. West Virginia kept after Spencer but never got anywhere with him.

    GRADE: C. (MSU was looking for immediate help. They got that in Wilson, Carpenter and Redmond. Jenkins and Spencer have the potential to be very good OL, but that is probably in a year of two. If Gates and Dunning were certainties for the OL, this grade would go up a notch, but, as of now, it's uncertain where they will end up playing. Although he's not included in this recruiting class, the return of Brad Weathers will help offset the lack of signing more guys who can play immediately.)


    While this position was rarely mentioned as a top priority, it was one. Any Bulldog fan will tell you that the punter is one of the most important positions on the field. MSU, in their heyday, had great punters. With the signing of Blake McAdams, MSU signed the punter that has the potential to be a difference-maker.

    Who did MSU hurt the most?

    McAdams committed to Ole Miss early, but backed off immediately after the firing of Coach Cutcliffe.

    GRADE: A. (MSU was looking for immediate help and got it with the signing of McAdams.)

    Overall, the MSU coaching staff did a great job helping themselves on the defensive side of the ball, especially at LB, DB and Punter. The recruiting on the offensive side of the ball, however, appears to have come up a little short, especially at WR and RB.


    P.S. - Who were the private commitments that Coach Croom talked about? While Coach Croom won't say, my best guesses are the following. I consider a private commitment someone who has told the coaching staff that he is going to sign with MSU, but delays making it public. With the exception of one, all signed with MSU.

  • Calvin Wilson
  • Anthony Johnson
  • Charles Burns
  • Ty Evans
  • Derek Pegues
  • Anthony Dunning
  • Johnny Carpenter
  • Louis Ellis
  • Antonio Johnson
  • Archie Sims
  • Tim Holloway
  • Jimmy Johns

    Gene Swindoll is the publisher of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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