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Monday Morning Coffee Break

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FOOTBALL RECRUITING

For the second straight recruiting season, the Mississippi State coaching staff has put together a potential top-15 to 20 recruiting class.

While this class probably won't be rated as high as last year's class by the recruiting analysts, MSU, ranked 13th by Max Emfinger and 20th by TheInsiders.com recruiting and Bill Hodge recruiting, filled almost all of its immediate needs.

QUARTERBACK:

With starting quarterback Kevin Fant a senior this coming season, MSU had to look no further than 30 minutes down the road for the top quarterback in Mississippi and one of the best in the nation, Omarr Conner. Omarr, who I had the pleasure of watching a couple of times, is a do-it-all type quarterback who will excite the home folks with his exciting style of play. High School coaches that faced him were in awe of his ability.

Add him to sophomore Kyle York and redshirt freshman Aries Nelson and MSU has solid depth behind Fant.

Players weren't the only newcomers to this position. Coach Sherrill also added new OC and QB coach Morris Watts. Watts is considered one of the top offensive minds in the college ranks.

Quarterback, if the offensive line blocks better this coming season, should be a strong point.

RUNNING BACK:

With two former high school Parade All-Americans returning in the backfield, you wouldn't think MSU would have a need at running back. The MSU coaches saw it differently. Jerious Norwood and Nick Turner are exceptional talents but not what you would consider big backs. Neither is returning junior running back Fred Reid, all 5-9, 185-pounds of him. Because of that, the MSU coaching staff looked long and hard for the big back that they felt they needed.

Athens (AL) High School running back Jason Jude filled MSU's need. Jason, who suffered an ACL knee injury during the fourth game of his senior season, is 6-0 and 235 pounds. He reminds me a lot of former big back Michael Davis, but with more speed. Jason, although he has said he wants to play tailback in college, could also be a potential fullback.

Although he isn't a new recruit, Nick Signaigo, a player who walked on last fall, is expected to complete for the starting fullback position. More on Signaigo later.

The tailback position, if Turner is allowed back on the team after receiving three year's probation for possession of counterfeit money, will be a strong point of this team. Fullback is a question mark.

WIDE RECEIVER:

With the graduation of just two wide receivers, Terrell Grindle and Darius Tubbs, and Justin Jenkins, Ray Ray Bivines, Antonio Hargro, Tee Milons and McKinley Scott and Brandon Wright all returning, wide receiver wasn't a major need. However, the MSU coaching staff still signed three, Jason Husband, Joey Sanders and Akeem Lofton. Husband and Sanders are both big receivers with great hands. Lofton is smaller but a great athlete who played quarterback his senior season. He could wind up playing somewhere else during his college career. Sanders was the best receiver I saw this season. He is 6-1 to 6-2 and weighs about 190 pounds. Husband is a very reliable receiver who can catch the ball very, very well.

This position, if the receivers can ever learn to consistently catch the ball, will be a strength of the team next season due to depth.

MSU also added a new coach for this position, Guy Holliday.

TIGHT END:

With the graduation of senior Donald Lee, MSU's coaching staff looked in the junior college ranks and the high school ranks for tight ends. They wound up signing two very athletic high school tight ends from Mississippi, Dezmond Sherrod (Caledonia HS) and Eric Butler (Moss Point HS). Because of their size, both will very likely be redshirted next season.

MSU is expected to start senior Aaron Lumpkin. Other tight ends that will see action are veteran Tommy Ferrill and redshirt freshman Blake Pettit. Senior Kyle Wiley is also expected to see action.

Former offensive tackle and tight ends coach Terry Lewis will coach tight ends exclusively this coming season.

OFFENSIVE LINE:

MSU returns all of the starting offensive line from last season with the exception of part-time starters Donald Tucker (no longer on the team) and Michael Allen (graduation), the MSU coaching staff was able to sign quality players that would be given the opportunity to redshirt their freshman season. The only exception is Parade All-American Donovan Davis. Davis, easily the top offensive lineman in the state of Mississippi, is a 6-7, 330-pounder from Callaway High School who has the size and strength to add depth at guard and possibly tackle this coming season.

The other four offensive linemen, Lance Fremin, Brian Anderson, David Price and Royce Blackledge, will use their true freshman season to redshirt.

MSU also added a new offensive line coach, Steve Campbell. Campbell is highly thought. Although he is only 36 years old, he has a national championship under his belt while a head coach at Delta State.

DEFENSIVE LINE:

With a new defensive coordinator, Ron Cooper, and his four-man front defensive scheme now at MSU, the coaches recruited as many defensive linemen as they possibly could.

Their efforts were rewarded with the signing of Corey Clark, a player I consider the top defensive lineman in the state of Mississippi, Devrick Hampton, an inside guy who was impressive at last spring's Nike Camp in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Avery Hannibal, a defensive end type who is very strong, Rex Hill, a big 6-3, 295-pounder, Andrew Powell, a 6-2, 290-pound inside guy and Sandy Quinn, a 6-4, 240-pound defensive end type.

State also re-signed Deljuan Robinson, one of the top defensive line prospects in the nation last season. If he completely recovers from his heart operation, he will challenge for early playing time next season.

With a lack of depth at the defensive tackle position, Clark, Hampton, and Hill will also likely see early action for new defensive line coach John Blake.

LINEBACKER:

With the departure of All-American linebacker Mario Haggan, MSU made finding at least one quality linebacker a priority. Thanks to the recruiting prowess of assistant coach Jim Tompkins, MSU found two that fit that criteria, Michael Heard and Brad Horton. MSU had to battle Georgia and Indiana for these players all the way up to and into signing day. Both players run very, very well.

Add sophomore Marvin Byrdsong, a former high school Parade All-American, to the mix and MSU, over the next three to four years, will have one of the fastest linebacking groups in the SEC.

DEFENSIVE BACK:

With the departure of starters Josh Morgan and Korey Banks, the MSU coaching staff was looking for immediate help at this position. They got it with the December signing of Chris Swain and the February signing of Eric Fuller. Both are highly thought junior college players who will most likely play the safety positions.

As for the cornerback position, MSU signed three of the top high school cornerbacks in the south with the signing of Parade All-American Quinton Culberson, Adrian Griffin and Jeramie Johnson. All three could see action their freshman season.

South Panola's Rickey Wright was also signed as a defensive back but will probably redshirt his freshman season.

Overall, the MSU coaches did a great job of finding players at almost all positions who could come in early and add quality depth. That was a high priority this season, because after two three-win seasons, this year's and last year's recruiting classes will very likely feel the pressure of stepping up and helping MSU become competitive in the always tough Southeastern Conference. There is very little doubt that the fan base will not stand for another three-win season. Here's hoping the two classes step up because I'm one person who can't wait to see what this current MSU coaching staff of outstanding recruiters will do next recruiting season.

Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break.

Have a great Bulldog week!

Gene Swindoll



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Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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