A Look Back at the Great 2009 Signing Class


November 10, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs linebacker Deontae Skinner (51) against the LSU Tigers during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Mississippi State 37-17. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Mullen’s first recruiting class, 2009, has dwindled down to just five players left as 5th year seniors in 2013, and they’ll play their last game in the bowl. I wanted to take a minute to look back on this class – one of the greatest in MSU history.

To be fair, Slyvester Croom had a lot to do with this signing class. Of the 27 players that signed, 14 of them committed to Croom. Guys like Cam Lawrence, Tyler Russell, Gabe Jackson, Johnthan Banks, Fletcher Cox and the list goes on. Dan Mullen was able to secure players like Chad Bumphis, LaDarius Perkins and Pernell McPhee. Let’s take a look at how these guys fared in their careers…

1. Johnthan Banks – 4 year starter and Jim Thorpe Award winner his senior year. He went on to be drafted in the 2nd round and is currently a rookie for the Tampa Bay Buccanneers.

2. Leon Berry – a juco transfer, he mostly made his mark as a kick returner where he returned two for touchdowns in his career. He was heavily used in that role and as a WR until dislocating his ankle mid-season in 2010.

3. Josh Boyd – 4 year starter for State. Drafted in the 5th round by the Green Bay Packers where he is a rookie this year.

4. Sean Brauchle – juco placekicker. He split time with Derek Depasquale making 56% of his FG. He made 10 tackles in 2010, a lot for a kicker.

5. Chad Bumphis – 4 year starter and one of the best WR in MSU history. He 2,270 career receiving yards and 24 career TD are Mississippi State records. He is currently a member of the Denver Broncos practice squad.

6. Montrell Conner – this is one of the few that didn’t pan out. He was a 4-star RB, but left the team in 2010 fall practice citing personal reasons. He signed with Troy in 2011 and I’m not sure what happened to him after that.

7. Fletcher Cox – 3 year starter before leaving for the NFL Draft after the 2011 season where he was the 12th overall pick for the Philadelphia Eagles. At MSU he had 24.5 TFL and 7.5 career sacks.

8.  Billy Hamilton – he opted for a baseball career instead and is now playing for the Cincinnati Reds. In four years of minor league baseball he had 395 stolen bases.

9. Brandon Heavens – his career was always a mystery to me. He played as a true freshman and showed flashes of being very good but could never unseat Chris Smith or Arceto Clark. Finished his career with 589 total yards and 3 TD.

10. Mardrecas Hood – ended up going to juco and I’m not sure what happened after that.

11. Heath Hutchins – juco punter. He was the starter in ’09 and ’10.

12. Gabe Jackson – here’s the first one to redshirt on this list. Four year starter with a long list of accomplishments including winning the Conerly this year as well as the first ever Kent Hull Award. He will likely be a 1st round NFL pick this spring.

13. Mourice Langston – came in as a juco and played as a backup corner for two years. He got in some kick returns as well.

14. Cameron Lawrence – two-year starter in 2011 and ’12. He led the team in tackles both years with 100+. He now plays for the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie.

15. Johnathan McKenzie – he redshirted in 2009 and started at DE in the 2010 opener against Memphis, tallying 4 tackles including one for a loss. Then all of the sudden a few weeks later he quit the team to focus on academics.

16. Pernell McPhee – juco transfer and big time DE starter for two years. He had 22 TFL and 7 sacks in his short time at MSU, leading to a 5th round draft choice of the Baltimore Ravens where he won a Superbowl in 2012. He is currently in his 3rd year of pro ball.

17. LaDarius Perkins – starting tailback in 2012 and ’13. Ran for over 1,000 yards as a junior and over 2,500 in his career so far. He has 15 rushing and 9 receiving TDs in his career. Perk’s 319 all-purpose yards vs. Ole Miss in 2010 are 2nd all time in MSU history.

18. Tyler Russell – another one of the five that made it to 2013 as a 5th year senior. Full time starter in 2012 and holds a number of MSU passing records including: career passing efficiency and touchdown passes; single-season touchdown passes, yardage, attempts, completions, efficiency, and YPG. He has a chance to break the career completion percentage mark this year (currently 2nd) and for a single season (currently at 65% this year, record is 60%).

19. Ricco Sanders – he redshirted in 2009 and received significant playing time during his sophomore year of 2011 including two starts, catching 15 passes for 163 yards and 1 TD. He left the team in the summer of 2013.

20. William Shumpert – a FB, he redshirted in 2009 and then sat out the 2010 after having surgery on a herniated disk. I’m not really sure what happened after that but I assume the injury forced him out of the game.

21. Deontae Skinner – basically a 3-year starter at OLB as he picked up 8 starts in 2011. The last of the four 5th year seniors in 2013. In his career he tallied 199 tackles, 18 TFL, an INT and 3 forced fumbles.

22. Darius Slay – speedster had to go to juco but came back to State in 2011 and while he had some adjusting to do in 2011, he had a great senior season in ’12. Six career interceptions plus 16 passed defended. He ran two INT back for touchdowns. Slay was a 2nd round pick of the Detroit Lions where he is a rookie this season.

23. Chris Smith – very quietly put together a nice career as a Bulldog. He played his true freshman season although he only caught three balls. Ended his career with 1,180 receiving yards and 5 TDs….3-year starter.

24. Dennis Thames – he redshirted in ’09 and hit the field in 2010 with 10 tackles as a DB. Thames was dismissed from the team in the summer of 2011 for repeated violation of team rules.

25. Sam Watts – He was an offensive lineman who redshirted, then played on special teams as a freshman and I’m not sure what happened after that, I assume he wasn’t able to hold onto his scholarship.

26. Chris White – juco transfer who came in and made a bunch of noise at the LB position, especially in 2010 when he won the Conerly Award. 185 tackles, 19.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks and 2 INT in his two years at State. He was a 6th round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2011 where he spent two years and is now playing for the New England Patriots.

27. Nickoe Whitley – the last of the 5th year seniors. Nickoe was a 4-year starter, had 15 career interceptions placing him 3rd all-time at MSU. 5 career forced fumbles but the final two in 2013 will be long remembered. He also tallied 229 tackles, 8 TFL, 1.5 sacks and 16 passes defended.

There you have it – just an incredibly productive class. The five 5th year seniors are the only class in MSU history to make it to four bowl games (Marcus Green made it to four but he was at State for 6 years). Take a look at the accomplishments already by this class:

  • 2 Conerly Award winners
  • 6 NFL Draft picks (Gabe Jackson will make 7 + plus any more that are drafted)
  • Jim Thorpe Award Winner
  • Potential for 2 1st round draft picks plus two 2nd round draft picks
  • Record setting quarterback in Tyler Russell
  • Record setting WR in Chad Bumphis
  • 8 current NFL players – could be as many as 13 next year
  • 35 wins over 5 years – the most since 1997-2001
  • 13 of the 27 players in this class started for at least 2 years at Mississippi State

This was a hugely successful class that will always be remember at MSU. Congrats to them for all of their accomplishments!