"This year we're ahead of the game as far as getting the paperwork done and getting them cleared and in here," Felker said.
Felker also corrected previous reports that Friday would be the last day for these incoming frosh to be in classes, saying that Monday will now be the deadline so as to avoid missing too many class dates in the compacted summer course schedule.
All of these first-year Bulldogs have been certified for freshman eligibility by the NCAA's Clearinghouse, as reported Wednesday, and thus are allowed to enroll for summer school if they wished. Naturally Coach Sylvester Croom has made it clear his wish is that all cleared frosh join the varsity for July, and as of Thursday all of the 14 certified newcomers had reported but one. Mississippi State's compliance staff is monitoring the steady stream of Clearinghouse reports issued by the NCAA awaiting word on two other freshmen who are expected to be cleared.
This running tally does not include another true freshman, CB Anthony Johnson, who was cleared and enrolled for the spring semester.
The summer-cleared freshmen now enrolled for July are: DL J. C. Brignone, DL Brandon Cooper, RB Anthony Dixon, SN Aaron Feld, TE Brandon Henderson, TE Chris Herrera, DL Kyle Love, OL Mark Melichar, WR Keith Mills, DL Rodney Prince, RB Arnil Stallworth, DB Anthony Summers, and DB Marcus Washington. They join three juco transfers—LB Timmy Bailey, OL J.D. Hamilton, and WR Ryan Mason—who were on campus for the June semester, as well as Johnson and January transfer WR Tony Burks. The jucos did not have to be cleared, nor did Tulane transfer RB Christian Ducre.
Freshman LB Jamon Hughes has been cleared according to the MSU compliance office, but he had not enrolled for July as of Thursday. State was hoping to have Hughes enrolled and in class either tomorrow or by Monday at the latest.
State was also expecting word at any point that DL Reggie Odom has been cleared. As reported Wednesday, the Clearinghouse lacked an minor item regarding his graduation from his high school to complete certification. In fact Odom now has been given preliminary clearance in anticipation of this formality and should be with the team in July barring any delays.
That leaves four freshmen who have not been cleared and are running out of time as far as July enrollment, though not for fall eligibility. RB Courtney Jones is currently in the Clearinghouse process, and State hopes this is simply a clerical matter as often happens when the high school doesn't provide all required documentation.
LB Chasman Davis should be cleared, but with his ongoing rehabilitation from knee surgery he will not be able to play this fall. Davis is weighing the choice of going ahead and enrolling on schedule once cleared, or delaying the start of his college ‘clock' by enrolling in January and not losing his true freshman status for 2007. WR Alex Carpenter has not been cleared and likely will not get word from the Clearinghouse in time for July participation. And DL Alex Dekle will not qualify, much less be cleared, so he has enrolled at Georgia Military Academy.
Not being cleared for summer school does not necessarily mean a freshman won't be eligible for the fall semester or the season. And in the past many clearances were not issued until July or even into August. The Clearinghouse has added staff as a result and that has sped up the process of certifying every single freshman athlete in every sport at every NCAA member school. Football gets all the attention but the Clearinghouse works individuals case-by-case with, say, volleyball (another fall sport) getting the same treatment as football.
Another reason clearances are being processed faster is the NCAA's new rule allowing fall-eligible freshman in all sports not only to enroll in summer but do so on their normal athletic aid. Thus the emphasis by football coaches to get the newest kids on their rosters in school and working out—and started on classwork--by July at the latest. This includes Mississippi State.
"Of course last year was the first that you could bring them in for summer on scholarship, and we tried to take advantage of that," said Felker. "We wanted all of them here and got most of them."
MSU's pre-season camp begins August 2.