A Q&A With MSU Commitment Malcolm Johnson

In an exclusive one-on-one interview, Mississippi State football wide receiver commitment Malcolm Johnson and his head coach, Mike Smith of Northridge High School in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, talk with Gene's Page.

Malcolm Johnson

How do you think you did at Mississippi State's first camp? And what did the Mississippi State coaches think about your camp performance?
"I know I did good but I wouldn't say great. But a lot of coaches were impressed by my performance. When we went on the break during the camp and went to eat a lot of coaches who didn't already know me were asking about that kid from Northridge.

"After that we went to the playoff round and played on the stadium field. And all the coaches were in the stadium watching all my games. They were very impressed with my route-running and catching ability. So, I think I did good."

What did the Mississippi State coaches specifically say to you after the first camp was over?
"I talked to (assistant) Coach (Carl) Torbush and (head) Coach (Dan) Mullen as soon as the camp was over. They introduced themselves and I introduced myself. And they told me that they liked me as a prospect and they were going to start recruiting me. (Coach Torbush) gave me his number and told me to call him the next day. I called him the next day and I've been calling ever since then."

You want to last Friday's Mississippi State Friday Night Lights camp. What did they say to you after that camp?
"All the coaches thought I did good, but that's just coaches. I always think I can do better. And I always strive to do better."

You committed to the Mississippi State coaches after the camp. Go through it step by step until you committed.
"I had talked to Coach Mullen before the camp. And he had told me to come see him in his office after the camp so I could meet with him. He had talked to my parents. I introduced him to them and my sister. I saw him on the field so I got my parents and we had a family conversation and I told myself this is the right decision. I just felt right with the decision and I told (Coach Mullen) that I wanted to be a Bulldog."

What was his reaction?
"He was very happy. He asked me if I was sure and I told him, 'yes sir, I'm sure.' He then said 'welcome to the family' and 'you are a Bulldog now.' I told Coach Torbush and he was very excited, too. He told me to keep my grades up my senior year."

Now that you know you are headed to the SEC will you work out a little harder than you already are working out?
"Yes sir, I will. But that's one thing we really do here - we really work out. We'll work out from 6 to 8 or 8 to 10, then go to practice from 10 to 12. The only day we take off is Friday."

What was it like working with a college strength coach, Mississippi State's Matt Balis?
"That was a new environment for me. He brings energy to the group. A lot of us were tired, but he brought energy from the stretching. But he had us having fun at the same time. We were working but we were having fun while we were working."

How does Coach Balis bring fun to something that is causing you pain?
"Coach Balis has a different personality and character. He's always high energy and up-lifting. If you aren't energized around him, then you don't want to be around him."

When you first heard him talk did you say to yourself, now, this is a strength coach?
"I knew he was a strength coach when I first heard him talk when I was stretching. I thought he was playing at first but he kept talking like that the whole day. Just that voice. I can hear it in my head right now while I'm talking to you."

Now that you are committed to an SEC school all the high school defensive backs will have you in their line of sight. They'll want to prove they belong in the SEC and going against you they can prove to coaches that they belong. How will you handle that?
"Honestly, I like that because it will make me work harder throughout the week because I know a lot of people will want to take me down. But I love competition. It doesn't matter if it's football, basketball or baseball or any sport."

Were you able to talk to your Mississippi State position coach, Mark Hudspeth? If so, what did he talk to you about?
"Yes sir, we have a nice relationship and talk off and on. He liked me. And I liked him. He's a nice, humble guy. The think I liked about the Mississippi State coaches is they aren't just looking at my football. They want to make me a better man in the world."

Northridge HS head football coach Mike Smith

What are Malcolm's strengths as a wide receiver?
"Malcolm possesses very strong hands, which is obviously a very good attribute for his position. When he goes up and touches the ball it doesn't matter how many are in the crowd, he's going to come down with it. He also has the ability to be physical enough to get off the defensive backs. He also uses his body real well. He gets leverage and separation. He's a great possession receiver who will make the big third down catch to keep the drive going. He will make the play in the endzone that nobody else will make. He's not afraid to throw his body in there. And it's so hard to find guys who aren't afraid to to play across the middle. Everybody plays out on the edges real well but he makes the tough catches in the crowd."

And he's only 16-years-old.
"The sky is the limit on this kid. He's not the guy who will stretch the top of the defense with blazing speed (but) he is the guy who is going to make the play in the corner of the endzone."

When did you first begin coaching him?
"This (coming season) will be his third year. He didn't play as a freshman. He came out in the spring and we put him on the defensive side of the ball. He had two or three interceptions in a week, then I think he walked away. He thought he was going to be a basketball player. So, I let him sit for a year. Then I went to him and told him to get himself out there and play football. Sure enough, he came out and wound up starting as a 10th grader. And every year he has been productive."

What did you see in him that first year?
"The talent was there and you knew he was going to be a good size kid. But Malcolm has vision. He sees what is in happening in front of him. He can run a route, make a two-step adjustment and get open, whereas some guys are going to just run a route. He can play on the defensive side of the ball, too. He can time it just right where he can break up on the ball and intercept it. Two years ago, he played nickel back and receiver for us, and he wound up leading us in interceptions while on playing in about 10% of the downs."

Carl Torbush is the Mississippi State recruiting Malcolm. What did he tell you that he liked about Malcolm?
"When we went over to (the Mississippi State) seven-on-seven camp, I told him that morning that I had a pretty good receive that he needed to look at. Then, by lunch time everybody was talking about the kid from Northridge. So, he started watching him and then the entire staff started watching him. Then, we played the final four in the stadium and he just dominated every team that we played. And we played 11 or 12 games that day. And he was dominating people all the way to the championship, and they were double and triple covering him.

"By the end of the day everybody knew who Malcolm Johnson was. I knew that he had Division-I ability. But people in the SEC kind of back off if they aren't on the hot 10 recruiting list. And they are missing a lot of kids who are in their back yard. I'm worked camps for years, although I don't work them anymore because it takes away from my program. But I've seen kids run 4.4s and 4.3s every now and then and I've only seen a few of them be productive in college. Julio Jones is a 4.6 guy. Malcolm is a 4.6 guy. We've got to quite labeling these guys. You have to see if they are a ballplayer first, then see if they have the physical ability. Ballplayers make plays and Malcolm is that."

Do you want to get a little bit better feel as to the type person Malcolm is? Then check out this short video interview that I did with him while at Northridge High School Tuesday -

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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