TUPELO – It’s too soon to say whether Chris Jones and Ashton Shumpert – the Daily Journal’s players of the year in 2012 – will see the field this fall, but their impact on the program is already being felt.
In my five years covering Mississippi State, I don’t recall there being so much buzz about a couple of freshmen as with Jones and Shumpert. But then, these are two of the most talented players to come into the program during coach Dan Mullen’s tenure.
These are the kind of players Mullen needs to attract more of in order to make MSU competitive in the SEC’s Western Division. Of course, such players need to eventually live up to the star ratings. It’s early, but so far Jones and Shumpert have made a strong impression on coaches and teammates.
Jones was a five-star recruit out of Houston, which is just up the road from Starkville. He was rated the second-best overall 2013 prospect in the country by 247Sports, and MSU beat out rival Ole Miss to secure Jones’ services.
He’s listed as 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, but defensive coordinator Geoff Collins told us earlier in preseason camp that Jones is closer to 310 pounds. Coaches aren’t really concerned about the weight.
“Whatever he can play and run at,” defensive line coach David Turner said. “He’s a little bit of a freak of nature in terms of what he can do athletically.”
Jones is raw, but his tools are evident. If he does get on the field this fall, the buzz will only grow, with all eyes watching his every play.
Slightly less hyped, but still very talented, is Shumpert. The Fulton product – who played two years at Tupelo High – is a little more polished than Jones in his particular skill set. He’s been keeping pace with the older running backs from a physical standpoint, and his work ethic is, by all accounts, impeccable.
“He’s – what’s the saying – a bull in a china shop,” running backs coach Greg Knox said. “He’s running, and whatever’s in his way, he’s going to run it over right now. Eventually he’s going to learn how to read the defenses, how to make his cuts, where the ball’s designed to go, and he’ll come out of that china shop.”
Given the depth MSU has at tailback, it’ll be tough for Shumpert to get on the field this fall. But if he’s good enough, and/or if somebody gets hurt, he could become a factor.
Shump, as they call him, was a four-star prospect. He’s got good size and knows how to finish off runs, and he can change direction, too. He should be the future at tailback for MSU – just as Jones is the future at defensive end.
Those guys will have their time in the limelight soon enough, and the buzz will only grow louder.
<b>Brad Locke</b> (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.