Gardhigh Last Freshman Awaiting Clearance

The 2005 Mississippi State season, or more precisely the pre-season, begins Wednesday as the Bulldogs are to officially check-in. And going into the August 3 reporting date it appears Coach Sylvester Croom will have 21 newcomers who have been certified for the season.

According to MSU's athletic compliance office, there is only one remaining rookie who has not been declared eligible by the NCAA's clearinghouse. Wide receiver Corey Gardhigh is the last freshman on Croom's 2005 signing list awaiting notice of whether he can, or cannot, play this fall.

Assistant compliance director Tyler Hill said Tuesday morning that the process of clearing Gardhigh, a Cedartown, Ga., product, was slowed through the summer by some missing paperwork. "The clearinghouse needed two items from the high school," Hill explained. "I think the clearinghouse now has everything they need, they just have to process it and sometimes it takes a couple of days to get material into their system."

Gardhigh was unable to enroll for either summer semester at Mississippi State because he was not certified in time. Nor can he report for preseason camp until the clearinghouse rules him eligible, either. There is not quite the same hurry now, though, since when cleared a freshman can join practices immediately. Also, a freshman has up to five days after classes begin to be cleared, which at State this year would be August 25th.

Meanwhile the rest of the expected eligibilities have been confirmed by the clearinghouse, particularly lineman Anthony Dunning of Coffeeville, Ala., and linebacker Jamar Chaney of Fort Pierce, Fla. Chaney was a late recruit for Mississippi State, having originally inked with Georgia before being freed of his scholarship obligations due to a university athletics academic policy specific to UG. Mississippi State was able to quickly step in with an open scholarship, and Chaney has been cleared for August participation.

Mississippi State had also considered handing one other freshman-class slot to another, unspecified prospect, but that came to naught. Now, with Dunning and Chaney certified, there will be 21 scholarship newcomers (one of them junior college transfer Antonio Johnson) reporting Wednesday. And should good word come from the clearinghouse today, "That puts us at 22," Hill said, "counting Gardhigh."

State could have brought in as many as 23 this spring, with two grants deleted from the usual 25-class total for 2005 by NCAA sanctions. There were more than 23 signees announced this year, of course, and if Gardhigh is indeed cleared there will have been five high school recruits who did not qualify. They are linebackers Archie Sims, defensive linemen Jessie Bowman and Louis Ellis, running back Tim Holloway, and defensive back Anthony Johnson. Also, linebacker Brandon Wittie, inked after Signing Day, will reportedly enroll in January as a ‘grayshirt' recruit.

Again assuming Gardhigh is cleared, this would bring the total players on scholarship for 2005 to 74, according to the compliance office. The official pre-practice roster shows 14 senior Bulldogs who are presumably on scholarship, which if accurate would mean come December there will be the full signing-class limit of 25 grants free for use in the next recruiting class.

Hill said the clearing process has taken all summer, but there were few real problems getting the high schools and families to provide required paperwork to the clearinghouse. "As far as getting everybody here it's been pretty much routine. We only had some hang-ups early on with guys like Dunning, Michael Gates, and Jimmy Miller. After that it was pretty simple."

Though football naturally gets all the media attention this time of year, the compliance office has been just as busy with confirming the status of all other incoming Bulldog athletes. Hill proudly reported that all soccer, softball, and golf recruits have been cleared, along with two volleyball freshmen. Four new men's basketball players—Bernard Rimmer, Jamont Gordon, Reginald and Richard Delk—were cleared in time to participate in second-semester summer school, and Vernon Goodridge is expected to be cleared for fall enrollment on schedule. Only guard Jeremy Wise will not qualify as a freshman.

Also, all baseball recruits have been certified except for junior college signee Andy Rice of Itawamba CC, who is still in the clearinghouse process.

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