Starkville Daily News

Bulldogs bring in talented players from Mississipp­i


When Zach Arnett became Mississipp­i State's new football coach after the sudden and tragic passing of head coach Mike Leach, his plan was already in place.

Arnett has not been shy about his thoughts on the state of Mississipp­i and the talent that springs forth out of it. As the day ended on Wednesday's second signing period, the Bulldogs had the nation's No. 25 high school or junior college signing class by 247Sports Composite rankings and 16 of the 27 players were from the state of Mississipp­i.

Including eight more transfers, 19 of 36 played high school or junior college football in the state. Even though the majority of the class was signed under the leadership of Leach and that staff, it's in the right direction where Arnett is trying to go.

One of Arnett's first moves as coach was to assemble a staff that has strong ties to the state of Mississipp­i. He brought in former MSU wide receiver Chad Bumphis to coach receivers, two-time Bulldog defensive line coach David Turner is back for the trifecta, Tony Hughes was retained to coach running backs after spending decades inside the state and well over 10 years in Starkville and Greg Knox has returned as a Senior Offensive Analyst after coaching nearly 10 years with Dan Mullen at MSU. Even the off the field staff has a heavy Mississipp­i presence.

That was prevalent on signing day when the Bulldogs had an old-school battle with a defensive lineman from the state. Hughes introduced Arnett to Lawrence County defensive lineman Jonathan Davis in early December when the 6-foot-5, 300-pound monster was expected to slip through the cracks and go to junior college.

After Leach's passing, an offer didn't come to fruition with MSU staff's thoughts on more important things, but Texas offered late and the Bulldogs followed suit with Ole Miss after. Over a week later, State and Ole Miss were battling it out and it was Turner and Hughes that won the battle on Wednesday.

“Incredibly excited to add him to the family today,” Arnett said of Davis. “His stock has skyrockete­d the last couple of weeks. People say, ‘man, you beat some big time programs for Davis,' well, we're a big-time program too. Specifical­ly when you talk about that position. This is D line U. It's good to talk with a young defensive lineman and tell him how you're going to develop him when you have David Turner leading that room…recruited and developed Chris Jones, Fletcher Cox, and a whole host of other names.”

The other high school player signed on an otherwise quiet day was former Southern Miss cornerback commitment Will James from Theodore (Ala.). After having a huge performanc­e in the Mississipp­i/ Alabama All-star practices, James popped heavily on Darcel Mcbath's radar.

State had already signed four corners in the class whether in the high school ranks or in the transfer portal, but Arnett felt he was too good of a player to pass on for the Bulldogs.

“He's an instinctua­l player,” Arnett said of James. “He does some things naturally that you don't coach, which is always nice. He's got good speed. He's got ball skills to make plays with the ball in the air. In the end, I want to be the most connected staff to our recruiting footprint of any school who recruits that footprint. We need to work harder and developed deeper relationsh­ips with those coaches than any other staff.

After the future Lions all made their decisions known, defensive lineman J.D. Methvin and offensive lineman Terry Clayborn told the crowd in attendance that they were going to ICC.

Methvin had the type of ACT score that could get him in anywhere, but it came down to wanting to play for coach Travis Macon, who played for the Jackets in 1994-95.

“They gave me a lot of love,” Methvin said of Macon and the Indians. “I look back to where (Macon) had been coaching. Everywhere he had been coaching had success so that's where I wanted to go.”

Methvin said it's going to be much easier having Clayborn going to Fulton with him.

“It's good to have someone I know, are good friends with to go through practice and workouts with,” Methvin said.

 ?? ?? Theodore (Alabama) cornerback Will James holds up a Mississipp­i State banner after signing with the Bulldogs on Wednesday. (Photo by Brett Greenberg, for Starkville Daily News)
Theodore (Alabama) cornerback Will James holds up a Mississipp­i State banner after signing with the Bulldogs on Wednesday. (Photo by Brett Greenberg, for Starkville Daily News)

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