More Freshmen Expected For June Semester

A couple of their classmates got an invaluable head-start on the rookie season this past semester. Now several more members of the Mississippi State freshman class of 2009 hope to be joining their spring-enrolled peers for the first session of summer school.

With the June semester less than a week away, Mississippi State's football office was unofficially anticipating as many as five true 2009 freshmen who intend to be enrolled for the first summer session. If all official matters do work out in time, they are to report this Sunday along with the Bulldog spring varsity roster and begin classes next Monday. Who does or doesn't actually report will be updated by cases, along with any unexpected additions.

The projected five February-signed freshmen are: quarterback Tyler Russell of Meridian, wide receiver Chad Bumphis of Tupelo, defensive lineman Jonathan McKenzie of Starkville, defensive lineman Josh Boyd of Philadelphia, and defensive lineman Fletcher Cox of Yazoo City. All would have formally graduated already, and either have been or expect to be certified by the NCAA's clearinghouse in time for the start of the college summer session. Incoming players must be certified before they can enroll.

Those who do meet the criteria for June 1 would join offensive lineman Sam Watts and defensive back Cameron Lawrence, the two high school standouts who achieved graduation in December, were cleared and able to enroll at Mississippi State for the 2009 spring semester. Watts finished his first spring practice session as the #3 center, while Lawrence worked his way up to alternate second-team at safety, both obviously benefitting from the head-start they got on college football.

Their classmates who are allowed to enroll by next week won't have that advantage, though several signees—most notably Russell—did observe a number of spring practices first hand. Still the earlier they come to campus the better in terms of their adjustment to college, getting into the academic regimen (taking up to a maximum of seven credit hours), and of primary interest to their coaches jumping right into the same summer strength and conditioning program as the varsity.

They will not however receive any direct coaching, as per NCAA rules. In fact these players, new and veteran alike, cannot work with their coaches either on the field or in the offices over the summer. The only coaches allowed direct daily contact is strength coach Matt Balis and his staff, who certainly will more than fill any such void with the regimen these players will be put through. After workouts, though, the players of all classes are free—make that, encouraged—to get out on the practice fields in unsupervised groups and participate in activities mimicking practice work. While this means to most throwing-and-catching by the quarterbacks and offensive skill personnel, defenders and linemen are also clued to things they can do that will let them get into for-real fall practices much more efficiently.

First-summer-semester enrollment has been rare to nonexistent at State in previous years due to most high schools not completing their school year—and thus graduation—until too late in May for the players to be processed by the clearinghouse. Fortunately such things are trending in a better direction for State. All five projectees come from Mississippi high schools, which points to both better groundwork done by their schools' administrations in providing required academic record information to the NCAA, as well as the work by the signees themselves to earn clearance status. Also, this decade the NCAA began allowing incoming freshmen begin using their athletic scholarship for summer school, making it infinitely more practical for the players and their families to start college earlier.

Mississippi State expects all cleared and healthy freshmen to be enrolled for the July semester.

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