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No drama as Starkville's Gardner signs with MSU

 

Brett Hudson

 

 

STARKVILLE -- There was no drama surrounding Cameron Gardner. The Starkville High School wide receiver committed to Mississippi State in the spring before his senior year and never truly wavered, even after Dan Mullen left to become the new head coach at Florida and Joe Moorhead took over for him at MSU. 

 

Gardner's signing was just as understated. 

 

On Wednesday, Gardner didn't have a ceremony in front of the student body to celebrate the signing of his National Letter of Intent on the first day of the early signing period. He simply wanted to go to MSU, and he knew it before Moorhead arrived for his in-home visit. 

 

"I think I was going to State no matter how that went," Gardner said. 

 

The only surprise of Gardner's signing day was his position: tight end. 

 

This past season, Gardner had 31 catches for 455 yards and nine touchdowns as a wide receiver. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he might not have the frame traditionally associated with a tight end, but Starkville High football coach Chris Jones feels Gardner could be perfect fit for the new-age tight end role. 

 

"I think it's a good situation," Jones said. "I think they're going to try him out at some flex tight end kind of deal. There might not be much blocking. It might be more of a receiving role. 

 

"If you watch the NFL and even college football, tight ends aren't the same tight ends they used to be." 

 

Jones pointed to how Ole Miss used Evan Engram and how the NFL's Arizona Cardinals did the same thing with Ricky Seals-Jones, taking a Texas A&M wide receiver and turning him into a tight end. 

 

"He'll have to buy in," Jones said. "He's saying he's bought in, but just me knowing guys and kids, they've been playing something their whole lives and it's going to take some time for them to buy in. I think it will happen, but it won't happen overnight. I think he'll learn it, but I think the best thing for a kid like him is to sit a year -- because he's only 17, he'll graduate at 17 -- so he needs to develop a year. 

 

"They'll put that weight on him, and I think he'll do fine at that position." 

 

Regardless of which position Gardner plays, Jones will be happy to see him at MSU. 

 

Jones, who just finished his first season as Starkville High, wasn't around when former Starkville High standout A.J. Brown picked Ole Miss over MSU. All Jones knows is how MSU has treated Gardner and his other players, and he wants to see more of that in the future. 

 

Jones said he spoke with Moorhead on Tuesday about sharing ideas, since both of their systems are reliant on run-pass options. Jones plans to take full advantage of it to strengthen his system and to build ties between MSU and Starkville High. 

 

Jones hopes Gardner will use his proximity to home as an advantage, too. 

 

"If he wants to get a hot meal, he can just drive home whenever he wants to. I think it's a good situation for him and for Mississippi State," Jones said. 

 

Gardner felt good about his decision after Moorhead and his staff visited him at his home. 

 

"It was just getting to know him and him getting to know me more. It went really great," Gardner said. "He came in and made it feel like home the way he was talking about stuff that he was going to do." 

 

Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson

 

 

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