January 11, 2017 10:29:49 AM
STARKVILLE -- Willie Gay is taking his time in the last month of the recruiting process.
The Starkville High School linebacker narrowed his list down to Mississippi State, LSU, Michigan, and Ole Miss in December. With National Signing Day on Wednesday, Feb. 1, Gay is going to make the make sure he picks the right school.
"I really don't have a leader. I am just letting it all happen and will decide on signing day," Gay said to Bulldawgs247. The Dispatch couldn't reach Gay by phone. "It's about me feeling comfortable with wherever I am. I do look at the depth charts and see where I can have an early impact. I see the same opportunities at Mississippi State and LSU when I look at those depth charts."
Gay had 83 tackles (10 for loss), a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery, and a blocked extra point this past season to earn The Dispatch's Large School co-Defensive Player of the Year. He is rated as a four-star prospect and is the third-best player in the state, the 111th best player in the country, and the seventh-best outside linebacker, according to 247 Sports Composite.
Gay told Bulldawgs247 he will visit MSU this weekend and LSU next weekend. He said Florida State wants him to visit, but he is unsure if he will go to Tallahassee, Florida.
"I've been to Mississippi State a lot, but now I look forward to seeing a little more than I do on regular visits," Gay told Bulldawgs247. "I want to be around the players, feel comfortable, and talk football with the coaches. I want to see if my heart is there or not.
"I get along with basically the whole team. They always speak to me when I am over there and we all get along. I am real cool with all of the linebackers and Leo (Lewis) hits me up on Twitter a lot and we talk."
Gay didn't officially visit MSU during the season, but he watched several games at Davis Wade Stadium.
Gay committed to Ole Miss last summer, but he decommitted during the season. Gay said he did his homework and wanted to explore his options.
"He has just enjoyed the process of being recruited, and I think just like any other 17- or 18-year-old kid, he enjoyed that process and he wants to be able to explore and see what's available for him," Starkville assistant coach Randy Carlisle said.
Carlisle, who has coached Gay since the seventh grade, said in December that Gay had the ability to make an impact right away in college and he has the ability to be a Pro Bowler in the NFL.
Carlisle praised Gay's attitude toward the last month of recruitment.
"With the way recruiting is today and internet and how fast information travels, I think Willie's handled it pretty well," Carlisle said. "Where he's at? I'm not sure. I think he is narrowing it down and the choices are getting smaller. He does his homework. When I ask him about schools, he gives me some facts about their program, what their class looks like, people they are recruiting, and the incoming recruiting classes."
Gay, who has 15 NCAA Division I offers, played in the U.S. Army All-American Game on Sunday and told Bulldawgs247 he enjoyed the experience.
Carlisle compared Gay's recruiting process to an adult looking for a career after getting a degree.
"This is an opportunity for him for the next three to four years and what he's going to do with his life," Carlisle said. "I think in the end, he is going to make the decision that is good for Willie Gay, which that is who it should be about. It's not about Randy Carlisle, it's not about Starkville High School, it's about Willie Gay and Willie Gay's family to where he's going to spend the next three to four years playing college football and getting an education."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.