Mississippi State football: 5 recruits who can help immediately in 2019
The Mississippi State Bulldogs have been following up a solid season on the gridiron by finding similar success on the recruiting trail. Currently, their 2019 recruiting class is ranked 19th nationally (according to 247sports), with 22 verbal commitments, including six 4-star prospects.
As usual, they’re doing an excellent job of mining their talent-rich home state, with half of their commits hailing from the Magnolia State. Considering how talented Mississippi’s 2019 class is, this is a good thing for the Bulldogs.
Here are five recruits who could make early impacts for the Bulldogs in 2019.
5. Charles Moore, DE
Moore (6-4, 268), a Louisville, Miss. native, is a good athlete who moves well, showing a nice first step and lateral quickness. He doesn’t just rush with power, he also shows flashes of heavy hands and an intriguing inside counter spin, displaying a mature variance of moves to keep blockers off balance. He shows decent power at the point of attack and has experience rushing from both 2- and 3-point stances. With his frame, I could see him adding another 15 pounds and moving inside to play tackle.
The Bulldogs’ defensive line this year was freakishly good. Alas, it’s a veteran-laden group, and assuming Jeffery Simmons goes pro as most expect, they’ll be losing all four starters up front, as well as a handful of backups. The line will still have talent in 2019, but the Bulldogs will have a lot of depth to replace and they’re going to need some of their top defensive line recruits, like Moore, to step in and make an impact right away.
4. LaQuinston Sharp, OG
The 6-3, 305-pound JUCO product hailing from reigning national champion East Mississippi Community College missed much of the 2018 season due to an ankle injury, but he’s expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the 2019 season. While he played right tackle at EMCC, given his length and somewhat heavy feet he’s expected to move inside to guard for the Bulldogs. He’s a nasty drive blocker who shows great strength in his base to consistently move guys off the ball. What I like most about his film is that he finishes blocks: he’s not content just putting himself between his man and the ball carrier, he wants to drive the guy into the ground, and he regularly does so.
The interior of the Bulldogs’ offensive line will be hit hard by graduation, as center Elgton Jenkins and right guard Deion Calhoun were seniors this past year. There’s also an outside chance that left guard Darryl Williams leaves early for the NFL, which means they would have to replace the entirety of the middle of their offensive line, which was a strength of the offense this year with their ability to open holes in the run game. Sharp is a guy who can step in right away and be an asset in the Bulldogs’ rushing attack, potentially as a Day 1 starter.
3. Fred Peters, S
I’m not going to lie: his tape reminds me an awful lot of Johnathan Abram (who also went to Jones County Junior College) in terms of their skill sets and playing style, and he was used in a similar way this fall. The 5-11, 200-pound JUCO prospect is a physical and instinctive player who does a good job of reading and reacting to plays early, with the ability to click and close and get downhill. He shows good range in coverage with plus ball skills and natural playmaking ability. He’s a big hitter who makes his presence felt with bone-jarring tackles.
Similarly to the defensive line, the Bulldogs’ secondary was outstanding this year. And similarly to their defensive line, it was a senior-laden group that will be losing many key players and a lot of depth due to graduation. Abram is one of those seniors, and it’s easy to see Peters step into the role that Abram played this year, as a safety who plays at or near the line, covering the flat, blitzing and coming up to play the outside run.
2. Nate Pickering, DT
He has been listed by most as a strongside defensive end, but as he’s 6-4, 286, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t moved inside to tackle early on, similarly to Simmons back in 2016. Pickering, from Seminary, Miss., shows good snap anticipation and is quick off the ball, moving very well for his size. He flashes active hands and does a good job getting them up to close passing windows when he can’t get to the QB. He displays terrific upside and potential to develop into a penetrating 3-tech who can get upfield and disrupt rushing lanes while also collapsing the pocket.
As mentioned with Moore, the Bulldogs will be losing an awful lot from their defensive line this offseason, and they’ll be looking for some of the younger guys to step in and contribute early. Given Pickering’s frame and quickness, I could see the Bulldogs moving him around, to rush both inside and outside, as his versatility should mesh well with Bob Shoop’s flexible scheme.
1. Garrett Shrader, QB
Finally, we’ll get a chance to see a QB that head coach Joe Moorhead handpicked to run his offense. No offense to Nick Fitzgerald, who was one of the best QBs in program history, but his inability to consistently complete passes downfield limited what the offense could run. With Shrader, however, Moorhead could really begin to open things up and run a balanced offense that doesn’t exist entirely through the rushing attack.
The 6-4, 208-pounder from Charlotte, N.C. has a good arm with the ability to drive the ball downfield with accuracy. He shows good velocity on short and intermediate routes and can get the ball out in a hurry. For deep balls, he tends to elongate his delivery, but Moorhead shouldn’t have any problems cleaning up his mechanics and finding a quicker release. And just as important as his ability to pass at a high level is that, to properly execute Moorhead’s RPO-heavy offense, the QB has to be able to run. And Shrader can do just that, showing excellent speed, balance and change-of-direction skills as a ball carrier.
Obviously, Keytaon Thompson will get the first crack at replacing Fitzgerald, as he not only has been learning the offense the past year but has played meaningful snaps in games. Asking a true freshman to come into the SEC and lead an offense is a tall order – not impossible, mind you, but it’s rare. With that said, I’m not sure how much confidence Moorhead has in Thompson, as he was hesitant to play him this year, no matter how stagnant the offense got under Fitzgerald. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Shrader see some time early in 2019, not only to get his feet wet but perhaps because he can execute the offense more effectively.