The world of college football recruiting often gives fans some unexpeted twists and turns, especially around the early and traditional signing windows. Wednesday, Mississippi State football fans were on the positive side of one of those surprises.
Linebacker Josaiah Knight signs with Mississippi State football despite being enrolled at Illinois
3-star edge, Josaiah Knight from Tallahassee, Florida has had quite the unusual recruiting journey. Originally committed to Cincinnati, he would flip his commitment to Illinois where he even enrolled in classes for the current term. However, this past weekend, he was in Starkville on an official visit and it appears that he liked what he saw as he signed with the Bulldogs on Wednesday, the traditional National Signing Day.
"It's SEC ball," Knight told Steve Robertson of 247Sports.com. "This late in the process, there is no way I could have asked for anything better. I'm very relieved to have all of this over and I am excited to be a Bulldog. I told Coach (Jeff) Lebby on Saturday during my visit. When I sat down with him, I told him. He was very happy when I told him. He was very happy and he's ready to get this thing on the road."
This is an important win for the Bulldogs on the recruiting trail. Knight is a potential difference-maker at outside linebacker where he could impact the game by applying pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Rated by the 247Sports.com composite rankings as the No. 39 edge player in the nation and the No. 79 player in Florida, he instantly boosts what is already an impressive first class for the Mississippi State coaching staff. With his addition, the Bulldogs now have the No. 28 class in the nation according to 247Sports' composite class rankings.
This has to be one of the bigger surprises in the recent history of Mississippi State football recruiting given that Knight had moved to Illinois and was even announced at an Illini basketball game as one of their 2024 signees. However, he will now call Starkville home.
"It was stressful," Knight shared. "I just have too many people counting on me though. I couldn't let something like that affect me. I just had to move on with it. It worked out well for me in the end."
Landing Knight is important for Lebby and Co. because he gives this class something it was lacking, a true edge rusher. Currently, Knight is the only player in the Bulldogs' high school signing class listed as a true pass rusher.
The Bulldogs have gone heavy at the defensive tackle spot with three commits including 4-star Terrance Hibbler from Lexington, Mississippi. What's more, the class also includes three signees at the traditional linebacker positions, a sign that Lebby is loading up on defense to try to fix a side of the ball that was exposed when playing top-flight SEC opponents in 2023.
In fact, if you include the transfer portal in the equation, Lebby has added 16 new defensive pieces this offseason alone indicating that the offensive-minded head coach understands the importance of playing defense in the S.E.C.
Not all signing day surprises are positive. However, for the Bulldogs, Knight's late flip was a welcome bit of news and a sign that Lebby and his coaching staff may have what it takes to enhance the talent on the roster to a point where the program can again compete at the highest levels of the toughest conference in the nation.