Mississippi State adds 22 on signing day

Published 7:41 pm Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Joe Moorhead has coached college football for 21 years. Never, he said, has he had a recruiting class like this one.

It wasn’t necessarily because of an abundance of talent, but rather because none of the players he and his Mississippi State staff recruited wavered from their commitments.

Mississippi State signed 22 players on Wednesday, the first day of college football’s early signing period. The Bulldogs had the No. 21 ranked class according to ESPN.

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“I cannot recall a year when you have 21 commitments going into signing day and you get all 21 of those kids signed. We got all good surprises, and no bad surprises,” Moorhead said.

Mississippi players formed the core of the Bulldogs’ signing class. Fourteen of the 22 signees Mississippi natives, including four-star receiver Malik Heath, quarterback Will Rogers and running back Dillon Johnson.

Three other signees are not from Mississippi originally, but played at one of the state’s junior colleges.

“I think that’s important that we dominate our state, and we’ve done a very good job making sure the message that we sent is we want to keep the top talent at home,” Moorhead said.

Junior college transfers were also a key component of the 2020 signing class. Six of the 22 players signed on Wednesday came from the JUCO ranks.

Moorhead said some of that was by design, to fill urgent needs on the roster. Some of it, too, was a plan to take advantage of Mississippi’s junior college system that turns out dozens of polished players every year.

“One, the kids we’re taking from JUCO are that talented. And two, it’s addressing a specific need,” Moorhead said. “When you have the junior college system at your disposal here and you can come and find kids that have played at the college level and are ready to step in, I think that’s been a great benefit to us.”

Mississippi State signed nine players on the offense, 11 on defense, one kicker and one athlete.

Among the offensive players were four wide receivers, the quarterback Rogers, and running backs Jo’quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson.

Marks is a four-star prospect who is ranked as the No. 12 running back in the country by 247Sports. Moorhead seemed excited to pair him up with Johnson, a Greenville-St. Joseph star who rushed for 1,668 yards and 24 touchdowns this season.

“To add Jo’quavious and Dillon in the fold, one a four-star guy and the other a three-star guy that should be a four-star guy, I think those guys are a great mix,” Moorhead said. “One thing in this system we’ve had is a spot in this offense where true freshmen can come in and play right away.”

The Bulldogs might be set at quarterback for a few years with Garrett Shrader, who started four games and played in 10 as a freshman in 2019. That didn’t stop Moorhead from bringing in Rogers, a three-star recruit from Brandon.

Rogers was a three-year starter for Brandon and totaled more than 9,000 passing yards and 79 touchdowns in his high school career.

“One thing I believe is that when the quarterback walks in the room, you shouldn’t have to ask if he’s the quarterback. Will comports himself that way,” Moorhead said. “When you’re talking to Will about preparation and the things that are necessary for success not just at the high school level but the college level, and not just the college level but the SEC, you’re not going to have to ask Will to come in and watch extra film. You’re not going to have to ask Will to go to the field and throw extra routes. You’re going to have to say, ‘Whoa’ instead of ‘Sic ‘em.’”

After filling 22 of its 25 scholarship allotment during the early signing period, Moorhead said the Bulldogs will try to fill the remaining spots with the best available players before the traditional signing day in February.

He wasn’t sure what positions those would be at, but said there was a plan in place to identify and bring in players.

“We’re going to have a certain amount to give moving forward,” Moorhead said. “On my desk tomorrow I want the top available players at the high school, junior college and grad transfer levels at certain positions that we’re going to target and we’re going to go like hell after them to fill those remaining spots.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 139-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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