STARKVILLE – It’s too soon to measure the impact Dan Mullen’s first season at Mississippi State has had on high school and junior college prospects, but there is one big fish out there who, if Mullen can hook him, would add a lot of credibility to the coach’s ability to sell the Bulldogs.
That would be Cameron Newton, the 6-foot-6, 247-pound four-star junior college quarterback who began his career at Florida when Mullen was the Gators’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Mississippi State is high on his list, and coming to Starkville would make sense for him in many ways.
He’s a perfect fit for Mullen’s offense, which accompanied him from Florida, and freshman Tyler Russell, who redshirted this year, would have two more years to prep for the starting role. Newton and Mullen are very close.
Newton can sign as early as Dec. 16, the beginning of the junior college signing period, and he plans on enrolling at his school of choice in January. He’s at Blinn College in Texas, and on Sunday led the Buccaneers to the NJCAA national title by defeating Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College.
Newton was on hand for MSU’s 41-27 win over Ole Miss on Nov. 28 and was impressed with what he saw.
“With what coach Mullen has, that was like a pop up in my eyes,” Newton said. “Of course, Mississippi State has a lot of athletes, young athletes at that, and for him to just get those guys ready to play week in and week out from the first week, that’s big, man.”
While Newton is close to Mullen, he said that relationship won’t swing his decision. He’s also got scholarship offers from Arizona and Kansas State, and he’s visiting Oklahoma on Friday.
Newton went to Florida in 2007 and played in five games as a freshman, but he left following the 2008 season after an ankle injury and legal troubles. He was charged with stealing a laptop, but he entered a pre-trial intervention program and maintains his innocence, saying the computer was his.
He’s putting all that behind him and is focused on improving his game at Blinn.
The knock on Newton has been his passing.
“I already knew that I could pass, but being in Texas I feel that I have kind of polished up my passing skills, being more consistent with the passes, and that was really my main goal for taking a step down from Florida,” he said.
Bulking up at QB
Getting Newton on campus would not just be a coup for Mullen; it would address a huge need. Russell and third-year sophomore Chris Relf, who rushed for 500 yards and passed for 243 as senior Tyson Lee’s platoon partner, are the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.
Mullen wants four total, and then he wants to give them all an equal shot at winning the starting job.
So even if Newton signs, nothing is guaranteed. He’s fine with that.
“I want to work for everything, because I feel that that’s how you get the respect from your teammates, to work for everything you get,” Newton said. “And they see you working and grinding hard for the starter’s spot.
“So, I won’t want nothing given to me, but whoever deserves the starter’s spot, they should be able to start.”
For Mullen, quarterback is hardly the only position of need.
“We’re looking at every position,” he said. “The thing that we need that separates us from some of the other teams is the depth.”
At least he’s ahead of the game. When he was hired on Dec. 10, 2008, Mullen had to hit the recruiting trail running, and he lost only one commitment. The Bulldogs wound up with the 19th-ranked signing class in the country, according to Scout.com.
“This time around we know most of the guys,” Mullen said, “we’re just trying to recruit them to get them to come play for us.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal