On the offensive side of the ball, Mississippi State has a very good nucleus of offensive linemen returning. But the offensive line is one of the hardest positions to learn because they have to be in synch moreso than any other group of players. And they need strength and bulk for the rigors of SEC ball. So, the coaching staff went hard after offensive linemen.
First up is Derek Sherrod (Caledonia High School), a player that was coveted by schools across the country, including national champ Florida as well as one of the premier programs in all of college football, Notre Dame. The 6-6.5, 320-pounder said no to those schools and yes to MSU. He is the type player you build a line around.
Other linemen expected to follow suit and sign with MSU are D.J. Looney (Oak Mountain HS, 6-2, 280), Addison Lawrence (Magnolia Heights, 6-4, 250), Quentin Saulsberry (Independence HS, 6-3, 275), Dakota Merritt (Washington Sr. HS, 6-6, 298) and Colton Jenkins (Winona HS, 6-4, 286). Lawrence is athletic enough to play tight end, while Saulsberry has the ability to play defense if necessary.
While Mike Henig is expected to be 100% after being injured for part of the 2006 season, MSU, as an insurance policy, signed junior college QB Josh Riddell during the December signing period. Josh, 6-1, 195, already has valuable experience playing in a west coast type offense after playing for Foothill Junior College in California. Looking to the future, State is expected to sign Wes Carroll, a 6-2, 190-pounder who played for St. Thomas Aquinas HS in Fort Lauderdale, FL and Chris Relf (6-3, 206) of Carver HS in Montgomery, AL.
State was looking for a couple of wide receivers and should come away with one of the best junior college wide receivers in the nation, Co-Eric Riley (Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, 6-2, 200). They also received a commitment from high schooler O'Neal Wilder (Carthage HS, 6-4.5, 190), a tremendous athlete who has only been playing football for two years. He chose MSU over a late offer from Miami (FL).
At running back, the coaches were looking for a big-time back to alternate with freshman Anthony Dixon next year. Kemper County High School's Marcus Green (6-2, 215) may be the one to fill that bill. But the addition of former Ole Miss commitment Robert Elliott (6-1, 195) of Okolona High School is still a possibility. Robert will announce for either MSU and FSU at his press conference.
Fullback was also a must this recruiting season. MSU looks to fill that need with 6-1, 250-pound bruiser Ethan Stockett of Southside High School in Fort Smith, AR.
While there were a few immediate needs on the offensive side, there were many more on the defensive side. None more important than the defensive line.
The one player that may be expected to play more than any other is Co-Lin CC defensive tackle Jessie Bowman, a 6-1, 335-pounder who signed in December and will go through spring practice. A Juco All-American, his impact on the defense should be great. MSU is hoping for the best with LaMarcus Williams (Bastrop HS, 6-1, 295), an Ole Miss commitment. LaMarcus visited MSU this past weekend. Jazzmen Guy (6-5, 260) of Hazlehurst High School has a lot of talent and could play his first year but his academics are a concern. The same can be said for East Hall High School DT Korentheus Bailey (6-3, 250). Mississippi Delta CC defensive end Jimmie Holmes (6-3, 225) has the chance to have an impact as a rush end for the 'Dogs.
A significant need for MSU is at linebacker and the coaches are expecting to load up at that position today.
Expected to play right away is December signee Dominic Douglas, a 6-2, 210 tackling machine from Hinds CC. Also expected to battle for playing time is Jamie Jones, a 6-0, 215-pounder from Springdale High School and K. J. Wright (6-3, 200) of Olive Branch High School.
Simmons High School linebacker Antonio White (6-2, 240) is very talented, but his academics are a concern. Maurice Crutison (Port Gibson HS, 6-2, 210) is recovering from a knee injury and may be looking at a redshirt year.
At safety, State is expected to sign three very talented youngsters, Terry High School's Antwon Dixon (6-1.5, 185), Mike Hunt (Franklin County HS, 6-2, 210) and Zach Smith (Susan Moore HS, 6-0, 180). Zach, an exciting athlete, will also get a shot at quarterback.
Without question, the Bulldog staff filled their immediate and long-term needs at cornerback. Possibly the top cornerback in the Mississippi junior colleges, Jasper O'Quinn (Co-Lin CC, 5-11, 185) is expected to fight for a starting position next fall. Based on what I've seen from him, don't be surprised if he's starting in the first game. Chris Nance (Northeast MS CC, 5-10, 188) will also be in the mix for a starting spot.
Long-term, Wade Bonner (Fayette Ware HS, 5-10.5, 180), an unbelievable talent, should wind up being an all-star at cornerback. Damein Anderson (Hazlehurst HS, 5-10, 167) has the athletic ability to be a very good cornerback, but just needs to add strength and bulk to his frame.
Last season, State lacked a big-leg kicker. But that won't be the case next year with the addition of Eric Richards (Warren Central HS, 6-4, 230). Eric has one of the strongest legs I saw in high school ball this past season. Look for him to take over the kickoff chores immediately.
Keep it right here to read about each of these players as they sign on the dotted line.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.