February 8, 2018 10:21:53 AM
Brett Hudson - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- The first recruiting class for new Mississippi State football coach Joe Moorhead balanced what he and his staff
Since the first early signing period in December, Moorhead and his coaches spent the next month and a half adding to that initial group of 15.
On Wednesday, MSU received the fruit of those labors when it added eight players to its National Signing Day class. Some of those players were on MSU's recruiting board for years, while others were added in the final month as Moorhead tried to expand the class. Six of the eight signees are from the state of Mississippi.
"In the last six weeks I think we've done a great job of getting out to the high schools in Mississippi creating and developing relationships with coaches and selling our vision for the program," Moorhead said, "letting them know why the best players in the state of Mississippi need to stay home, play for the state university and help us win a SEC championship and win a national championship.
"Our message is that there's no reason the best of the best have to go anywhere else to play ball."
Three-star cornerback Esaias Furdge, of Clarksdale, stayed with MSU, as did three-star defensive back Jaylon Reed, of Olive Branch. Reed de-committed from MSU in December and once named Memphis the leader in his recruitment, but he stayed with MSU.
Moorhead sees similarities in Furdge and Reed as long cornerbacks who can cover ground.
The third defensive back was a new target: three-star Aaron Brule from Archbishop Rummel in the New Orleans area. He chose MSU over Arkansas and TCU. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Moorhead feels Brule will be able to shift between safety and linebacker.
"(MSU defensive coordinator Bob) Shoop had known a lot about him from his time recruiting him at Tennessee," Moorhead. "He's a big safety, can play linebacker, can move all over the field and do a lot of things. We went to watch him play basketball and he scored over 20 in the game we saw him."
The longtime MSU targets who elected to stay with the Bulldogs were three-star wide receiver Johnquarise Patterson, of Pearl; three-star athlete Nathaniel Watson, of Maplesville, Alabama; and three-star defensive end Fabian Lovett, of Olive Branch. Patterson also signed with Jones County Junior College. His final destination remains unknown.
Moorhead applauded Watson's pedigree as a three-time state champion who played on both sides of the ball and at multiple positions. He said he believes Watson's best fits at linebacker.
MSU fought off advances from Florida and Ole Miss to retain the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Lovett. The pitch to him and the school's other longtime targets wasn't very different from the one they heard before the early signing period.
"Fabian is a tremendous talent. Our staff worked really hard to have a guy of his caliber join our team," Moorhead said. "He's a guy we can see competing for playing time immediately.
MSU also added three-star defensive end Cameron Young, a 6-3, 310-pounder from Franklin County High School in Meadville and Starkville High offensive lineman Kameron Jones.
Jones, who had committed to Louisiana, where former MSU tight ends coach D.J. Looney is now the assistant offensive line coach, enabled the Bulldogs to find another offensive lineman. MSU signed Kwatrivous Johnson in the early signing period.
MSU pursued Ryan Winkel but lost him to Arkansas.
Tyrone Sampson Jr., a lineman from Detroit, and Jalan Robinson, of Lawrence, Kansas, didn't sign.
"(The offensive line is) something we addressed to the best of our ability in this class, and something we're going to have to work on going forward," Moorhead said.
Fountain leaves MSU
Moorhead confirmed Wednesday that special teams coordinator Scott Fountain has left the program to return to Georgia.
Fountain was a special teams analyst for Georgia last season before leaving for the on-field role of special teams coordinator. He will work in that capacity at Georgia.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson