If you didn’t know any better, you could easily mistake practices on the Mississippi side of the Alabama/Mississippi All-Star Classic as a Mississippi State gathering.
Mississippi State has nine commitments on Mississippi’s 40-player roster, by far the most of any school. The future Bulldogs have made their presence known this week in Alabama, particularly on the offensive line.
Out of the eight offensive linemen playing in the All-Star game, three will be headed to Starkville next fall. Six-foot-4, 310-pound Deon Mix (South Panola), 6-foot-5, 300-pound Jake Thomas (Columbus) and 6-foot-4, 295-pound Kent Flowers (Simmons) plan on anchoring the Bulldogs’ offensive line in the coming years.
Tate Hanna, head coach at Nanih Waiya, has coached the offensive line all week and thinks the “sky is the limit” for the trio.
“All three have a lot of potential at the next level,” Hanna said. “They’ve done an outstanding job for us. They are big kids with great footwork. They are all outstanding young men that work their butts off.”
During today’s All-Star Classic, Mix will play right guard, Thomas will play right tackle and Flowers will play left tackle. This week has allowed each player to get a feel for each position on the offensive line, as well as get a chance to know each other.
“It’s a good experience because we are going to be playing together for the next four years,” Mix said. “They get to see what I’m like and I get to see what they are like.”
All three have also had the joined displeasure of trying to stop Houston defensive end Chris Jones, another MSU commit. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound defensive lineman has been a “challenge” to stop all week, according to Flowers.
“There’s been a learning curve going up against Chris,” Thomas said. “But I’ve definitely gotten better this week because of it.”
Learning the playbook hasn’t been a problem this week for Mississippi’s quarterbacks.
Not that anyone should be surprised by that considering the two players chosen to play quarterback in the game.
Oxford quarterback Parker Adamson scored a 29 on his ACT and Ocean Springs’ Wes Windham scored a 27.
“They are very smart, gifted intellectually,” said Mississippi head coach Junior Graham of Eupora. “They are top-notch students and it carries over onto the football field.”
Adamson threw for 2,395 yards and 18 touchdowns this season for the Chargers, while Windham passed for 1,880 yards and 18 TDs for the Greyhounds.
Adamson has a scholarship offer from UT-Martin, while Ole Miss wants him as a preferred walk-on.
“That’s an option since my school would be paid for with my academics,” said Adamson, also a standout in baseball. “If I play well (today) and the team plays well and a coach likes what he sees, maybe something else will come open.”
Windham’s strongest interest has come from Mississippi College, Millsaps and several junior colleges.
He’ll be playing for the first time after having a tooth knocked out and three loose in Ocean Springs’ playoff loss to Brandon. Windham has had one plastic surgery and three root canals.
“Going through that was tough, but I shook it off,” said Windham.
Mississippi offensive coordinator Jamie Mitchell of Starkville got a chance to reunite with one of his former players, Itawamba AHS running back Ashton Shumpert, this week.
Mitchell coached Shumpert when the latter was a freshman at Itawamba AHS.
Mitchell left for Starkville after that season, and Shumpert left and played two seasons at Tupelo before returning to Itawamba AHS for his senior season.
“We have a great relationship, so this week has been a pleasure for both of us,” said Mitchell. “It’s neat to get to reunite with a guy that you got to coach in the ninth grade. It’s been amazing how hard he has practiced this week. He never wants to come out.”
Shumpert rushed for 1,796 yards and 25 touchdowns this season for Itawamba AHS, leading the Indians to the Class 4A quarterfinals.
Mitchell isn’t surprised by the success of Shumpert, who was named Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
“I got to see him and know him coming up through junior high and we knew he was going to be a phenomenal player,” said Mitchell. “He ended up being incredible.”