Elijah Staley Commitment Thoughts

Elijah Staley Commitment Thoughts

“I want MSU fans to understand, in my opinion, Staley would be the most talented QB MSU has ever signed, period. Most upside. Program changer.”

That was my tweet I sent out when Elijah Staley committed to MSU via vine on Friday. I admit that I am very high on the ESPN 4 star football prospect. At 6’6 and 208 pounds, his stature alone sets him apart. His cannon for a left arm sets him farther apart. His 4 star rating as a basketball prospects is a true testament to his athletic ability. Am I conveying why I’m so high on this guy?

Since everyone loves comparisons so much, I think he throws like a left handed Vince Young and I think he runs like Matt Jones. I have read that his 40 time is a hair over 4.6 but when he runs he takes those long strides like Jones. His upside is through the roof even though he is a bit unpolished. As an MSU fan who watched what Mullen did with Chris Relf, that is one reason I’m so high on Staley and his potential in Mullen’s system.

A concern is that being a 2 sport guy, he’ll never get to fully develop as a QB. I read in an interview with one of the recruiting networks that Staley thinks his future is in football. His words folks. The reality is that there are a ton of 6-6 athletic swing men in basketball but not many of those same athletes behind center. My personal opinion is that he will initially play both but go with football after a year or two. Just a guess by me.

I also like to look at his commitment big picture as well. Many Bulldog fans have had questions about the way Mullen recruits the quarterback position. It is a majority opinion that Mullen does better with spread quarterbacks that have mobility. The signings of guys like Dylan Favre and Nick Schuessler led many fans to question his strategy of why he takes pro style guys. Tyler Russell is in his senior year and when he graduates, MSU’s QB roster will be Dak Presscot, Damien Williams, and Elijah Staley. That’s all true dual threat guys if you’re wondering. Also, the top 3-4 guys on the 2015 QB board are dual threats.

Football Highlights

Basketball Highlights

Mullen Gets 2 More Commitments

Mullen Gets 2 More Commitments

Yesterday was an eventful day for MSU’s 2014 recruiting class as the Dawgs picked up 2 more commitments to bring the total to 8. Lets take a look at the pickups with some commentary.

Logan Cooke from Columbia Academy (K/P) 6’5 200
Let me start off by saying this commitment took me by surprise. I did not see us taking a kicker in this class that is tight on spots. His addition signals that he is the kicker of the future after Devon Bell. I won’t underestimate how much an elite punter or kicker matters to a football team. Here are his stats from his scout profile:

KOs: 48 kos with 41 touchbacks (85.4%), 17 were 70 yards + (35.4%). Avg ko distance was 66.42 yards.

PATs: 36/39

FGs: 2/6 (made 36,39 and misses of 42,50,52,33)

PUNTS: 20 punts with a 37 yard avg. (all punts were directional punts intended to go out of bounds)

Set Columbia Academy School Records this year for Points in a season by a kicker (42) and points in a career by a kicker (83)

Norman Price from Hinds CC (OT) 6’5 300
Another strong juco OL pickup for this class. Definitely fills a need and helps bridge the gap for the upcoming experience losses due after this year. Price is said to be very athletic and versatile enough to play either OT position or even OG. His versatility makes him an asset. He is rated as a composite 87 and owns offers from Kentucky and Missouri among others. Don’t forget that MSU remains very much in he mix for 4 star juco OT Avery Gennessy.

MSU Commit Tracker 5/30

MSU Commit Tracker 5/30

MSU’s 2014 commitments:

Jamoral Graham 5’10 190 from Newton County. WR/DB. 4.5 40. Composite 4 star. Could play DB or slot. He’s the kind if athlete that it will be hard to keep the ball out of his hands.

Nikia Cathey 5’8 177 from Westwood (Memphis). Slot WR. 4.4 40. Composite 3 star. Explosive playmaker who has great speed and shiftiness. His recruitment is picking up a lot of steam with more offers.

Dontavian Lee 6′ 200 from Forrest County AHS. RB. 4.6 40. Composite 3 star. Runs with a lot of power and vision. Built like a mack truck.

Lashard Durr 5’11 180 from Harrison Central. CB. Sub 4.5 40. Composite 3 star. Looks to be a prototypical lockdown corner. Great speed, agility, and coverage skills. Recruitment has been picking up with an Oklahoma offer and serious Bama interest.

Chris Rayford 6’1 200 from Byhalia. CB/S. 4.48 40. Composite 3 star. Bigger physical type DB. Could very well grow into safety but has great athleticism. Was offered and committed on the spot.

Jocquell Johnson 6-6 303 from Copiah-Lincoln CC by way of Callaway. OT. Composite 3 star. Long athletic tackle with really good feet. Recruitment really picked up since his high school career. A 4 star type talent that fills a need.

Quick Notes:

-MSU is really tight on spots so I’m somewhat surprised by the number of commitments before Big Dawg Camp. State fans have to like how Mullen continues to make MS a priority.

-Jamoral Graham has really imposed his will as the leader of this class. His excitement really shows as he works very hard on other guys. Great to have him on board early. Great follow on twitter @D1Prospect_3

-Many fans are nervous about Cathey. His has received many more offers and has said he’ll go to camps. He committed because of Brewster but Gonzales has been noted as really coming on with him. He has stated that it would “take a lot” to change his mind and that he is trying to be an early qualifier.

-By looking at offers we have out it appears we may take 3 RB’s IF they can play multiple positions. I have friends who coach high school football who love Dontavian Lee’s versatility and say he could have a future at LB. I’m not saying he’ll move, just noting a football guy’s opinion.

-Lashard Durr is a big get that we should see his rating go up after the camp circuit. He got intense interest from Saban, Oklahoma offered, and he didn’t flinch. We offered and he committed on the spot. We are seeing the Deshea Townsend effect. Also nice job by Kes Koenning on this one.

-Chris Rayford is an under the radar freak athlete. It was discovered at the Steve Robertson combine in Tupelo that he is only 16 years old. That’s amazing. Based on his age and build (I’m judging from his video) this kid may grow into a SS or even LB. I don’t care that he’s a composite 84, he is a commitment MSU fans should be excited about due to upside. I expect his rating go up after camp and more exposure.

-Jocquell Johnson fills a big need for MSU at OT. Really athletic kid that I never understood why he wasn’t signed and placed out of high school. In my opinion, he is a 4 star talent athletically. One thing to log in the back of your mind is that he went to Callaway and there are some other prospects from Callaway MSU is pursuing.

-As usual for State fans, expect a few commitments at Big Dawg Camp which is right around the corner.

Possible Commitments Next on Deck:

Aeries Williams 6’1 205 from West Point. RB. 4.5 40. 247 4 star. He has been on the brink for a while. MSU is his clear leader. Williams is a big time back that would be a huge addition. Look for MSU to push at Big Dawg Camp.

Gerri Green 6’5 210 from Greenville. LB/DE. 4.6 40. Composite 3 star (.005 from being a composite 4 star). The KJ Wright clone has had MSU as his leader and could be close. As with Williams, expect MSU to roll out the red carpet at Big Dawg Camp.

Jesse Jackson 6’2 195 from Petal. WR. 4.5 40. Composite 4 star. MSU has been the leader for some time but put me in the group that believe Mullen should push for and take his commitment. Mullen and Gonzales should try to pull out all the stops at Big Dawg Camp to get him in the boat. It is starting to look like he may take his time but a strong push could get him on board.

MSU and Ole Miss Target Elisha Shaw-Oops!!

One reason you have to love recruiting is the storyline and drama it brings. Unfortunately for Elisha Shaw, he brought this oops moment on himself. He is rated as the number 2 DT prospect in America and currently has 4 stars. He is right on the cusp of gaining a 5th star. It’s not uncommon for prospects to plead their case for another star or a bump in the rankings. That’s when things got weird for Shaw. He screen shot his rankings on 247 and tweeted out the picture. He didn’t close out his other tabs and 1 of them was porno.

For the record, I think he earns his 5th star and this doesn’t make any mark on his recruitment. The guy is a monster on the field. One thing you can bet on is Pastor/Coach/Recruiter Hugh Freeze now has an angle for his football career and eternal salvation.

Here is the screenshot picture he tweeted out

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MICHIGAN STATE 2013 COMMIT QUITS FOOTBALL TO FOCUS ON RAP CAREER

File this one under strange decisions. Jay Harris decided that college football and an education was not not him and he chose to pursue a rap career. I have to wonder how his mother feels about this. He is not the first to do this. Rapper The Game gave up a basketball scholarship to pursue music. The odds of going to the NFL are long but the odds to make it big in rap may be longer. We all know how much a college degree could have helped him long term. Harris was a 3 star rated recruit by 247 with other BCS offers.

According to a new post via Philly.com (the source of the original story) MSU is calling this a “mutal decision” by Harris and the coaching staff. So in real world terms this is what they mean: We pulled the kids scholarship after he posted a video of himself firing up a fatty behind the wheel of a car and smoking the ganj in some weird attic with all sorts of tagging on it.

Of course the best part is now that Harris is claiming he told the coaching staff that he wanted out two weeks ago, yet the release comes now…. Hmmm, call me skeptical of the story that he called it quits after all, but then again I may just be a jadded sports writer who’s seen one too many fishy stories to believe anything these days.

Mullen Steps Up Recruiting

Another unique piece of recruiting mail and another Internet buzz generated. For anyone keeping score, that’s the third time that has happened this cycle. The first was the infamous “you’re a baller” and the second was the “can of swag’ letter. The latest was a Mother’s Day card to Olive Branch offensive lineman Chase Johnson. All of these recruiting letters have gotten MSU a ton of publicity and gotten recruits talking about the Bulldogs. All good things in my mind.

While MSU fans are enjoying Dan Mullen leading this creative charge, the national media, radio host, and bloggers have taken every opportunity to scoff at MSU’ efforts. The latest of the snide articles was penned by Yahoo blogger Cameron Smith. The opening sentence in his piece is “This is getting ridiculous”. Smith is just another media member taking shots (a certain Mississippi sports radio personality took shots at “you’re a baller”) at Mullen doing everything he can to recruit in the SEC West with the smallest recruiting budget.

First I’ll say that I love what Mullen is doing. Recruits are opening MSU mail and talking about it on social media. Doesn’t mean they sign but its a good thing. With MSU’s small budget, Mullen has to find interesting ways to differentiate himself from the pack without spending a ton of cash. Mission accomplished.

What I don’t understand is some of the media pushback. In today’s college football landscape, prospects surface every cycle flashing hundred dollar bills but that gets overlooked and not a big deal. God forbid a cash strapped staff do some interesting recruiting letters and now these media guys have negative attitudes about it. If illegal benefits are “just part of recruiting” but different letters irritate you, please go get your head examined.

Even when you look at within the states borders we see the double standard in how it’s reported. Last recruiting cycle we saw Hugh Freeze recruit Kailo Moore in his underwear, he kissed Tunsil, and cried on the phone to a juco DT. All of these things, which I find weird and not the masculine football attitude I grew up around, were lauded as great recruiting and passionate. Chris Kiffin was given all kinds of awards for his performance last cycle and it was reported that he sent prospects hundreds of Facebook messages. That was lauded as genius and tenacious.

To be completely honest, I have no issue with any of it. If “you’re a baller” gets your foot in the door or if recruiting a guy in your underwear gets a commitment, that’s fine. The coaches and players involved in the recruiting process are the ones who have to deal with everything they’ve done, said, and the decision made. Recruiting is war and all is fair so don’t get upset over letters. It’s a long way until February and letters are just the tip of the iceberg.

Ranking the Top SEC Recruiters

247 sports has a really cool feature they recently unveiled where they rank not only the players and classes but also the assistant coaches doing the work. They have a point system where the coaches gets points for each commitment as the primary or secondary recruiter. The average numerical rating for the prospects is heavily weighted as well. There are currently 4 SEC assistants in the national top 10. There are 22 coaches in the top 50. I would theorize that by National Signing Day that the SEC will take a large chunk of the top 100. It’s good to keep in mind that its really early for 2014 recruiting but this is something pretty cool that I’ll pay close attention to as the summer camp circuit draws near. This feature really allows you to see who the “ace recruiter” is on your staff for that particular recruiting cycle. Keep in mind that I hand picked and ranked the SEC coaches out of the national rankings (this ranking does not reflect their national ranking).

1. David Beaty (Texas A&M)- Currently has 5 prospects committed. (3) 4 stars and (2) 3 stars for a total of 71.12 points.

2. Clarence McKinney (Texas A&M)- Currently has 4 prospects committed. (1) 5 star and (3) 4 stars for a total of 65.57 points.

3. Kirby Smart (Bama)- Currently has 5 prospects committed. (4) 4 stars and (1) 3 star for a total of 63.76 points.

4. Dameyune Craig (Auburn)- Currently has 4 prospects committed. (1) 4 star and (3) 3 stars for a total of 59.78 points.

5. Matt Luke (Ole Miss)- Currently has 4 prospects committed. (3) 4 stars and (1) 3 star for a total of 57.61 points.

6.Frank Wilson (LSU)- Currently has 4 prospects committed. (2) 4 stars and (2) 3 stars for a total of 57.36 points.

7. Corey Raymond (LSU)- Currently has 4 prospects committed. (1) 5 star, (2) 4 stars, and (1) 3 star for a total of 54.34 points.

8. Vince Morrow (Kentucky)- Currently has 4 prospects committed. (1) 4 star and (3) 3 stars for a total of 51.83 points.

9. Tommy Thigpen (Tennessee)- Currently has 5 prospects committed. (1) 5 star, (1) 4 star, and (3) 3 stars for a total of 51.14 points.

10. Derrick Nix (Ole Miss)- Currently has 4 prospects committed. (1) 4 star and (3) 3 stars for a total of 50.22 points.

11. Mark Elder (Tennessee)- Currently has 3 prospects committed. (1) 4 star and (2) 3 stars for a total of 47.53 points.

12. Brad Lawing (Florida)- Currently has 2 prospects committed. (2) 4 stars for a total of 45.71 points.

41. Tony Hughes (Mississippi State)- Currently has 1 prospect committed. (1) 4 star for a total of 21.91 points.

MSU Recruiting Update

As everyone knows by now, MSU picked up its 2nd commitment of the 2014 class yesterday. Composite 4 star athlete Jamoral Graham of Newton County chose the bulldogs over offers from USM, Ole Miss, and high interest from LSU and Alabama. Graham plays both sides of the ball now and it’s to be determined if he will will WR or DB at MSU. My opinion is that the electric playmaker will play either CB or S. Graham is also a standout on the basketball team.

The commitment allowed a large portion of the ever pessimistic MSU fan-base to exhale a bit. Many have been very nervous about only 1 commitment but when you look at MSU’s recruiting history, its par for the course. It also doesn’t hurt that he is a high profile guy that gives the star gazers something to fawn over. Another thing that caught many folks eye was his interaction on twitter with Alabama DE Cory Thomas (@bigcory34). They appear to be close and Graham is pushing him to join him at MSU.

MSU’s two 2014 commitments:

Jamoral Graham 5’10 190 from Newton County. WR/DB. 4.5 40. Composite 4 star
@D1Prospect_3

Nikia Cathey 5’8 177 from Westwood (Memphis). Slot WR. 4.4 40. Composite 3 star
@Nikia_Cathey2

Guys who could be next to commit:

Dontavian Lee 6′ 200 from Forrest County AHS. RB. 4.6 40. Composite 3 star

Jesse Jackson 6’2 195 from Petal HS. WR. 4.55 40. Composite 3 star

Aeris Williams 6’1 205 from West Point HS. RB. 4.5 40. 247 4 star

No Hargrave, No Problem: Enter Jireh Prep

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In the football crazed south our passion goes further than on the field outcomes. We even obsess over the recruitments of high school athletes before they arrive at the schools we root for. In this recruiting crazed environment, SEC football fans are well aware of postgraduate programs or prep schools, as they are better known. These institutions offer kids the opportunity to gain entrance to the 4-year universities without burning any eligibility as they would at a traditional junior college.

Last week Andrew Bone, of rivals, was the first I saw to report the closing of Hargrave’s postgraduate football program. While it may be just a blip on many football fans’ radars, it immediately caught my eye as big news going forward for SEC recruiting. There are other programs such as Georgia Military but no other postgraduate institution has been able to become ingrained in the southern recruiting fabric as Hargrave.

I immediately made a comment on my twitter about the news and not soon after was informed by Jireh Prep linebacker coach Ryan Williams that they were out there and ready to fill the void left by Hargrave. If you aren’t familiar with how twitter works, Coach Williams did not previously follow me, nor did I follow him. His immediate reaction to me regarding the news showed that the Jireh staff is working hard through all mediums to promote their program.

After exchanging a few tweets with Coach Williams and being impressed with how friendly and responsive their staff was, I reached out to Jireh Prep head coach Scott Smith. Coach Smith was kind enough to give me some of his time and discuss the Warriors program and what they are about. The first thing I brought up was how impressed I was with how proactive they were in using the opportunity of Hargrave closing to promote their program and how they are striving to take the next step.

“Something you believe in wholeheartedly, you want to push it. It’s good for kids academically. We’re different than the military schools. We focus on the academics first, then the sports. We’re using twitter and Facebook to help build faster.”

One of the main reasons so many SEC fans were familiar with Hargrave is because of how often it was used by the conferences coaches. It would seem that a certain level of trust with coaches like Nick Saban, Dan Mullen, and Hugh Freeze would be essential to getting your foot in the SEC door. We spoke about what it takes to cultivate these relationships.

“We definitely reach out to as many of those guys as possible. The main thing they hold against us is that we haven’t been around that long. I’ve been here for five years now. Getting to that level takes time. We’re getting there. We have already had ACC and Big 10 kids. We want to get those SEC kids. We’ve gotten those SEC types of kids but getting to that level just takes time. It’s starting to happen. ”

In the beginning of my conversation with Coach Smith I noticed that academics was one of the first things he mentioned. When you look at Jireh Prep’s website, ( jirehprepwarriors.com ), you’ll quickly notice that their mission statement contains the phrase that they “prepare student athletes to become lifelong learners in the classroom…” Coach Smith explained that academics truly are the #1 goal at his program.

“Our academics are under so much scrutiny; so many people watch everything. The guys cannot do anything without us knowing. I get a weekly report on my desk to know who is they’re eligible on a weekly basis. That’s what we want. We want that retention. Weights, film, and everything else is built in but based first on academic performance.”

Most prep school kids are only with their respective institutions for a year. One thing I’ve always been curios about is how much better developed the players get football wise from their 1 year of prep school as opposed to a high school player. I asked Coach Smith how much these kids can absorb in that short time and how advanced they are from a true freshman who came straight from high school.

“There are a lot of benefits on and off the field. The biggest thing is the time management issue. That’s the number one thing college coaches tell us that our kids are much better at their time management. We work that in to everything that we do. It’s all based like a college program on a schedule. I tell people it’s just like college but with a 24-hour chaperone. A kid can also develop academically and increase his chances to go to a better college.”

I thought the time management issue was pretty interesting because of how true it rings. It’s not just athletes but all freshmen that have to adjust to being on their own and wisely managing their time for school and social activities. The kids having a year at Jireh Prep really has to help ease that transition to a 4-year institution. Coach Smith also touched on a few things unique to Jireh Prep.

“We have a 36,000 square foot workout facility just like many of the major colleges. We can really help them get better athletically. We also play a lot of better competition. We play juco level competition. Every aspect of our program has kids better prepared.”

We had been talking for a bit and I was really getting the feel for what I thought about Coach Smith and the Jireh Prep program. They really seemed to stress the academics first then athletic and personal development. I wanted to end our conversation with a better look a Coach Smith personally. There are a myriad of reasons that a kid ends up at a postgraduate program. Many kids in high school just don’t get the individual academic support they need to succeed may it be overcrowded classrooms, under funded districts, tough family situations, etc… I asked Coach Smith about what kind of feeling he gets when a kid like that comes to Jireh Prep and gets the help they need to get eligible and further pursue their dreams at the next level.

“It’s a better feeling than winning football games. Wins and losses come and go. Getting a kid qualified excites me more than anything. There are kids that have odds against them, like learning disabilities, and come here and get qualified. Those are the one’s we root for. It’s the best feeling in the world. When you go out recruiting, they don’t ask what the record was. They ask how many kids you got in to school. When I can walk into a quarterbacks home and tell him our last 2 quarterbacks are playing at a 4 year college, that sells.”

Throughout our conversation I was constantly struck by how honest Coach Smith sounded. I’m generally pretty good at picking up coach speak but I really believed what he was saying. Since there now is a hole in the prep school chain as far as SEC recruiting is concerned, I’d keep my on Jireh Prep in North Carolina. Their open eagerness to sell me their program shows that they are serious because lets face it; I’m not ESPN or SB Nation. The Warriors are definitely a program that I will be keeping my eye on. I would love to be the one who told you in the future, “I told ya’ll no Hargrave, no problem.”

5 Official Visits: Where to go?

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Recruiting season just finished and many fans across the country obsessed over what prospects they would sign.  We all selfishly want all the top targets to sign with our schools and cannot conceive anywhere else they would rather go. If you stop and think about it for a minute, it’s an unbelievable position for a 17 year old high school senior to be in.  I cannot imagine making a decision of that magnitude at that age.  The thing that irks me the most is when a school has a kid committed or heavily favoring their school and their fans go into a rage about them visiting other schools. If you were 17 and in their shoes, wouldn’t you want to take full advantage of 5 trips? I know I would. Put your fandom to the side and think where you would go (this will be hard for Ole Miss fans since they truly believe Oxford is the best place on earth).   I put myself in this situation and tell you the 5 places I would visit before committing to MSU of course.

1) Hawaii- There is no doubt this is 1 of my stops.  I would try to take it late in the process when the weather was at its worse. I have never been there and it would be an experience within itself.  I would also give them an honest look. They have a total enrollment of over 60,000. It is a huge diverse school located in paradise. They also offer almost any major you can think of since they are so isolated. Only problem would be identifying myself as a Rainbow Warrior.

2) UNLV- Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Another place I have never been that I would definitely have on my list. You hear it all the time, “What is there to do tonight?” I guarantee you that this is never an issue if you go to school here.  It’s a little bit bigger than MSU or Ole Miss with 28,000 students. Big but not too big. UNLV also boost a student makeup of 55% women so you have to like that number.

3) LSU- After the first two, this one may seem out of place but it belongs.  I have been here so I can vouch for it on the list. We saw how Robert Nkemdiche’s visit went: hang out with Shaq and a Wale concert.  The campus is not the most beautiful but let’s be honest, who cares? Tons a beautiful women and an energy only Louisiana can have. Go to Tiger Land and party like a rock star. I would try to visit during a big game such as Bama or Florida because there is not a game day experience in America like Death Valley at night.

4) Miami- Even though it hasn’t been the same lately, I would visit the U. Coral Gables is another paradise-like location. Miami isn’t near as big as the other (around 15,000) but has better academics than anyone on my list. Great education at Miami.  In 2012, U.S.News & World Report ranked UM as number  44 in its “Best Colleges” list. Can you imagine being an athlete at Miami and walking down South Beach? I could definitely see how that could influence a teenager.

5) Arizona State- As a teenager I would visit ASU for a couple reason. They are consistently ranked as the #1 party school in America by party frog.  Second off, they have an awesome mascot, The Sun Devils. It’s a huge school with total enrollment of over 72,000 and almost 60,000 at the Tempe campus alone. Great location for road trips being about 5 hours from Las Vegas, San Diego, and Los Angeles.