NEMCC loads up on D-I talent

Northeast Miss Community CollegeBY BRANDON SPECK

BOONEVILLE – Popeye’s and Taco Bell both have closed locations in Booneville. But the Northeast CC Tigers have had plenty of success bringing in big flavor.

“We’ve probably got about 19 Division I guys and probably seven of them are SEC guys,” Northeast coach Ricky Smither said.

Some of those freshmen include former LSU signee and now Ole Miss DE commit Jeremy Liggins, former LSU quarterback Jerrard Randle, Ole Miss tight end signee A.J. Jackson, Ole Miss linebacker signee Marcus Robinson and former

Miami defensive line starter Dequan Ivery.

“We finally got some bullets, just to be honest with you,” Smither said.

Liggins avoided tackles while leading Lafayette to back-to-back Class 4A state championships.

Now the sizable former QB – 6-foot-4, 295 pounds – aims to do the tackling at defensive end. Liggins had brief stops at Gulf Coast and Ole Miss before landing a position change in Booneville.

“The biggest transition would be more physical play and more contact every play,” Liggins said. “I say it’s a little bit of payback. I get to get a few shots on the quarterback.”

There are talented sophomores, guys like DL Daniel Ross, who Smither says will likely be in the top three in the country.

One newcomer making a quick impact is Booneville High’s Ross Smith. Smith got some SEC and Division I flirtation for his left tackle skills before signing with Northeast. He has been named the starter at right tackle.

“It’s a lot different than high school,” Smith said. “The competition is a lot higher. I was used to blocking little high school kids and I’m out here versus grown men.”

Northeast offensive line coach Mike Markuson knows how to handle D-I players.

Markuson was Houston Nutt’s longtime offensive line coach, including at Ole Miss, where he tutored All-Americans Michael Oher and John Jerry. His lines have produced six All-Americans.

Suddenly let go after two games at Wisconsin last season, one of the nation’s most regarded O-line coaches landed in a JUCO state he recruited.

“Every team in this state is going to have some great players,” Markuson said, “some guys that can play in the SEC. That’s great for our players. What I tell them in recruiting, ‘You play against the best, you showcase your talent.’”

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