January 11, 2013 11:52:25 AM
STARKVILLE -- Fundamentally, Mississippi State University junior offensive guard Gabe Jackson made the same decision teammate Johnthan Banks made one year ago.
By deciding Thursday to return for his senior season at MSU, Jackson, who is considered by many draft analysts, including ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., as the top junior offensive lineman draft prospect in the country, is giving himself a chance to be placed in the spotlight one more time and to earn a chance to be considered one of the nation's best at his position.
"It has been and will continue to be my dream to play in the National Football League, but after talking with my parents, coach (Dan) Mullen, and (offensive line) coach (John) Hevesy, I know the right decision is to return to Mississippi State," Jackson said in a university release. "I love playing for this university and for all the people of my home state, and I'm looking forward to leading this team as a senior."
Banks, who received the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation's best defensive back, said similar things the same things his experience at MSU nearly one year ago before opting to return for his senior season.
Jackson, a two-time All-Southeastern Conference selection, has started all 39 games at left guard at MSU. The Liberty native earned second-team All-America honors in 2012 from Phil Steele Magazine and Fox Sports. The 320-pounder said Saturday he would lean toward returning to Starkville if he learned he likely wouldn't be a first-round draft pick in April. Jackson received feedback from the NFL draft Advisory Board last month.
Hevesy said after a Gator Bowl practice at the University of North Florida on Dec. 30, that he typically encourages players to enter the draft if they receive a first-round grade, but that he recommended players return to school if the didn't get that rating.
Jackson hopes his decision works out the same way things happened for Banks.
"Look at John Banks," Mullen said. "He and I spent a lot of time talking about that, had the opportunity to come back, and he's done something special."
Townsend appears top candidate for open assistant job
Former NFL and University of Alabama defensive back Deshea Townsend appears to be the front runner to be the next cornerbacks coach at MSU.
MSU's 247Sports.com site was the first to report MSU officials and Mullen contacted Townsend earlier this week about the opening. The former South Panola High School standout reportedly was in Starkville on Wednesday touring MSU's new football facility. It is unknown when Townsend could be named to replace Melvin Smith as the Bulldogs' next defensive back coach. Smith left Starkville on Christmas Day for the same position at Auburn University.
As a 13-year NFL veteran with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts, Townsend won Super Bowls with the Steelers in 2006 and 2009. He spent last season as an assistant coach with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals before the entire staff, including head coach Ken Whisenhunt, wasn't retained.
Townsend led South Panola High in Batesville to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state championship in 1993.
247Sports.com reported Wednesday that University of Nebraska defensive backs coach Terry Joseph was another contender for the opening, but that he reportedly decided to remain with the Cornhuskers. Joseph, a former assistant coach to Derek Dooley at the University of Tennessee and Louisiana Tech University, was a part in the nation's fourth-best pass defense this season.
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter