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Talented group of freshmen making strides for MSU


Matthew Stevens



STARKVILLE¬≠ -- D'Runnya Wilson has now gone from a unknown three-star late signee to a player who has exploded onto the Mississippi State University depth chart.  


The freshman wide receiver from Birmingham, Ala., is one of two first-year players to suddenly arrive on the Bulldogs two-deep Monday along with five-star sensation Chris Jones. MSU coach Dan Mullen suggested in his media conference the Bulldogs may travel with "six or seven" freshman when the team leaves Friday afternoon for Houston. MSU will play No. 13 Oklahoma State University in Reliant Stadium for the 2013 Texas Kickoff Classic.  


"With the young guys, it's all about how you adjust to the speed of the game out there," Mullen said Monday. "It's not just about making plays but making plays within the system." 


In his five years roaming the sidelines for the MSU program, Mullen has built a consistent reputation with redshirting first-year players to give them not only a cushion year to get used to the academic level of college but the physical speed of play difference in the Southeastern Conference.  


However, Wilson made his presence known early and often in fall camp with some extremely athletic catches and the ability to use his 6-foot-5 frame naturally in the pass game.  


"When a big, tall receiver goes up and over the middle to make plays for you immediately, you notice it," Russell said. "I really look forward to him continuing to improve and maybe becoming a weapon for us in the future." 


Wilson is unavailable to the media per Mullen's policy for the MSU program that true freshman are restricted until at least the moment they step on the field in a college game.  


Despite being the target on very few throws per game due to the high school's run-heavy attack, Wilson had 23 catches for 482 yards and seven touchdowns this past season at Wenonah (Ala.) High School.  


Wilson reportedly held scholarship offers in basketball from Samford University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Murray State University, University of South Alabama, Alabama A&M University and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. 


Wilson was the 2012 Alabama Mr. Basketball runner-up to current MSU guard Craig Sword out of Montgomery Carver High School after averaging 16 points and 13 rebounds last season. 


When asked how he skyrocketed up the depth chart so fast, MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning described Wilson in the simplest of terms.  


"Get open and catch the ball," Koenning said. "You know, it's pretty obvious when you throw him the ball he makes plays. That's obvious. When the ball is in his vicinity he catches it and that's a good quality to have as a receiver." 


Another reason for why Wilson was able to earn projected playing time in this fall camp was simply his ability to stay out of the training room and stay healthy throughout the month of August. MSU had two receivers and two tight ends go down with injuries during fall camp but all of the pass catching targets are expected to play Saturday against Oklahoma State.  


One of those players that was wearing a red, non-contact jersey in fall camp was Fred Ross. The freshman from Tyler, Texas is expected to be cleared for action Saturday to face the school (Oklahoma State) he originally committed to in 2011.  


"Fred being out there has helped us and I think he's grasping (the offense)," Koenning said. "I think limiting down the offense, which is what we do this week, is going to help De'Runnya and Fred. It's going to help all our freshmen." 


Ross was one of six receiver commitments of MSU's 2013 including Texas junior college transfer Jeremey Chappelle, Memphis area prospect Donald Gray, Wilson, Shelby Christy from Louisiana and Gadsden, Ala., native B.J. Hammond. 


"Fred is one of the top wide receivers in the country," former MSU assistant coach Tim Brewster told in February about Ross. "He really is gonna help us as far as the size of our wide receivers. We went into this class with the idea of getting 


longer, getting taller, getting stronger, and Fred fits the bill perfectly for what we were looking for in an SEC receiver." 


Jones is listed as a backup defensive end behind Denico Autry. Jones, who is listed at 305 pounds, could see playing time inside and on the edge as a pass rusher in his college football debut. When asked about the potential of moving the nation's second-ranked recruit in the country according to, MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins played off the issue in a very coy fashion.  


"Never know," Collins said. "I guess we will know Saturday." 


Jones, who played at 250 pounds at Houston High School, arrived at camp and weighed "closer to 300 pounds" according to MSU defensive line coach David Turner - a weight he feels Jones can handle this season.  


Collins said after a two-a-day practice that Jones weighed 282 pounds after practice, acknowledging that the 18-year-old is already one of the bigger outside defensive lineman in the position group. 


"He's a freak and we honestly believe he can effectively play at a weight that is around 300 pounds at defensive end this season," Collins said. "He's still athletic and can physically move at that weight so we're not concerned." 


Due to his lack of understanding of the defense and effort required to play college football, Jones worked with the fourth team defensive unit during the first week of practice. After MSU went to the farm practice fields, MSU coaches, including head coach Dan Mullen, spent individual time with Jones on his technique and slowly the prized recruit was picking up the nuances of the scheme.  


Now the only question is whether the 300-pound lineman will line up more at defensive tackle or defensive end.  


"We joke with him, you're going to be a three-technique in the future," junior defensive lineman P.J. Jones said. "He's like 'No, I'm going to play defensive end!' I'm was like, 'Man, you weigh more than the inside guy.'" 




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