Monday Morning Coffee Break

We all know that Mississippi State football had three of its true freshmen make the All-SEC Freshman team. But what about the rest of the freshmen, how did they do? Today's MMCB gives you the inside scoop.

MSU Football True Freshmen Status

Johnthan Banks
S/CB, 6-2, 170
Johnthan is a small town Mississippi player who made his presence known very quickly when starting safety Zach Smith went down early in the season with what turned out to be a season-ending injury. Johnthan's coming out party was against the Florida Gators and Tim Tebow when he intercepted and ran back two Tebow passes for touchdowns. Recording 33 tackles on the season, Johnthan played in all 12 games and started 7. One of the three true Mississippi State freshmen that made the All-SEC Freshmen team, Johnthan has future All-SEC written all over him once he gets in the weightroom and adds weight and strength. The only question about him is whether he stays at safety or ends up at cornerback; he has the athletic ability to play either.

Josh Boyd
DT, 6-3, 285
Josh was a defensive end during his high school career but was converted to defensive tackle during the fall preseason. And, as the season progressed, he became more comfortable with his new position. In fact, he showed such great promise that he even started three games, while playing in all twelve during the just completed season. He recorded a total of 17 tackles, including 8 solo tackles. Josh has the kind of potential that could very well earn him All-SEC honors during his Mississippi State career.

Chad Bumphis
WR, 5-10, 195
Earned ALL-SEC Freshman honors for his 2009 season efforts. Despite playing on a run-oriented offense, he caught 32 passes for 375 yards and 4 touchdowns on 32 receptions. Chad played in all 12 games, starting 6. He also rushed for 73 yards, return 5 punts for 45 yards and 16 kicks for 383 yards. It appears Mississippi State will throw the ball much more during the 2010 season, so look for his stats to go up significantly. Has the potential to be All-SEC during his Bulldog career.

Montrell Conner
RB, 6-2, 215
The highly recruited running back was redshirted this past season due to the presence of three senior running backs, including the SEC's leading rusher, Anthony Dixon. After an initial adjustment from high school to college ball, Montrell improved immensely as the season progressed. He has the type speed, power, strength and athletic ability that will allow him to compete for the starting tailback position in the spring.

Fletcher Cox
DT, 6-4, 275
A tremendously talented youngster who played in all 12 games this past season, including starting 4. After recording 29 total tackles, including 17 solos, 3.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack, Fletcher earned All-SEC Freshman honors. Fletcher has the type potential that could earn him All-SEC and All-American honors during his MSU career.

Brandon Heavens
WR, 5-10, 165
Brandon is a small but lightning quick wide receiver who showed promise throughout the season. He played in all 12 games, starting 1. He had 7 receptions for 35 yards as a wideout.

Gabe Jackson
OG, 6-4, 310
Gabe redshirted his true freshman season as do most freshmen offensive linemen. He is a massive player who is very similar to current offensive lineman Tobias Smith in size and strength. What sets him apart from most offensive linemen is his quick feet. His combination of size, strength and quick feet makes you believe he is a possible All-Conference player in the future.

Cameron Lawrence
LB, 6-2, 210
Cameron played in all 12 games this past season, primarily on special teams where he recorded 12 tackles. He is a very talented youngster who is extremely competitive. Due to his frame, athletic ability and defensive mentality, he has the chance to be a excellent linebacker for the Bulldogs during his career. He'll have to have time to adjust to the new position during the spring, but he should catch on quick enough to move into the thick of things as far as the two-deep chart is concerned. I look for him to, at the very least, provide quality depth next season.

Johnathan McKenzie
DE, 6-4, 260
Johnathan was redshirted due to the depth at his position and to allow him to gain weight. But next year should be a coming out party for him because the word heard most often to describe him is freak! The reason for that is because he is one of the most relentless players to play at Mississippi State in years, whether it be running after the ball-carrier, one-on-one drills or doing pre-practice stretching. What sets him apart, however, in addition to that competitiveness is his athletic ability and strength. His potential is sky-high.

LaDarius Perkins
RB, 5-10, 180
Another of the freshmen who were redshirted this past season, LaDarius is a different type running back than Mississippi State fans has seen for the past few years. That's due to his big-time super speed and quickness. While his size won't allow him to be an every down type player, his speed and quickness will cause teams to always be aware of where he is when he's in the game.

Taylor Reed
WR, 6-4, 190
Taylor is a big wide receiver who walked on from the Memphis University School. During the just-completed season, he played in six games.

Tyler Russell
QB, 6-4, 215
Although he redshirted this past season, by the latter part of the season he was performing well enough in practice to have played in games if the opportunity had presented itself. The things I hear about Tyler is that he may be the best passing quarterback that MSU has ever had. The only other quarterback that could pass near the level of Tyler was Dave Marler. Tyler has everything great passing quarterbacks have - arm-strength, touch on his passes, accuracy and a very catchable ball. He is more of a true dropback quarterback, than a runner. He has the type ability that will allow him to be in the hunt for All-Conference and All-American honors during his career as a Bulldog.

Ricco Sanders
ATH, 5-11, 175
Ricco was redshirted after being cleared for practice late. He is a guy who improved as the season progressed. He showed a competitive nature in practices.

William Shumpert
FB, 6-0, 240
William, who was redshirted in 2009, is set to play the H-back/fullback position for the Bulldogs next season. And based on what I have heard, he will be a dominating blocking force at that position. Another word I've heard to describe his blocking ability is punishing. It sounds like he's another in a long line of great blocking fullbacks who have played at State and gone on to have solid NFL careers.

Deontae Skinner
LB, 6-1, 240
Deontae, who redshirted this past season, showed a great instinctiveness for the linebacking position. He is the same type big, run-stopper Mike linebacker you see at the Floridas and Alabamas of the college football world. Look for him to be at the forefront in the battle for the starting Mike linebacker position during the spring.

Chris Smith
WR, 6-1, 200
Chris played in 10 games, starting 2, this past season. Chris caught 3 passes for 22 yards. He is a big, strong, physical and polished wide receiver who blocks very well and showed very good hands at times. He is also super competitive.

Daniel Stegall
QB, 6-2, 195
After signing with the University of Miami out of high school, Daniel signed a pro baseball contract at the end of his senior season (2005-2006) and has played in the minor leagues since that time. He gave up baseball in 2009 and decided to walk-on at Mississippi State. A redshirt this past season, Daniel showed great athletic ability and a great ability to run the ball during practices. He's more of a running type QB than a passer. He's slightly behind the other quarterbacks due to the rust from not having played football since the 2005 season.

Baker Swedenburg
P, 6-0, 180
Baker, during his redshirt season, continued to improved his punting as the season progressed. Playing behind juco transfer punter Heath Hutchins, the starter this past season and expected starter next season, will allow him to concentrate on getting bigger and stronger.

Dennis Thames
S, 5-11, 180
Dennis, who played wide receiver during practices this past season, is expected to play safety during his Bulldog career. A redshirt this past season, Dennis, due to his ball skills, athletic ability and hitting ability, has the potential to be difference-maker at the safety position.

Sam Watts
OC, 6-4, 300
Sam, who redshirted this past season, has the skills, athletic ability, and mentality to be a very good center in the SEC. Playing behind starter J.C. Brignone and backup D.J. Looney will give him time to get in the weight room and concentrate on getting bigger and stronger.

Nickoe Whitley
DB, 5-11, 195
Nickoe, who was redshirted this past season, is a big, physical, imposing type safety. He battled a knee injury his senior season of high school but is now healthy and should compete for playing time this coming spring.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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