The countdown to the 2019 Mississippi State football season continues, as there are now just six days until the Bulldogs face the University of Louisiana at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Today’s spotlighted player is No. 6, Willie Gay Jr.
Gay, a local product from Starkville, was a consensus four-star prospect and one of the top linebacker recruits in America. He also rated as the top overall defensive player in the state of Mississippi by 247Sports, ranking No. 2 overall behind Florida State running back Cam Akers. He ranked as the No. 5 by ESPN and was considered the No. 3 ranked outside linebacker in the nation by 247Sports and Scout.com.
As a senior, Gay was named to the 2016 Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen. He racked up 83 tackles, including nine tackles for loss and was one of 15 semifinalists for the high school Butkus Award. He then played in the 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl and tallied one tackle for the East team.
As a junior in 2015, Gay earned second-team all-state honors after recording 84 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, nine pass breakups, six sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also played quarterback at times and helped lead the Yellowjackets to the 2015 Class 6A state title.
Gay originally committed to in-state rival Ole Miss on June 17, 2016, He decommitted on Oct. 24, 2016 before signing with the Bulldogs on Feb. 1, 2017.
As a true freshman in 2017, Gay played in all 13 games as a special teams player and as a backup linebacker. He recorded 23 total tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss to go along with a fumble recovery and two pass breakups.
Gay then played in all 13 games last year, including six starts. He tallied 48 total tackles, ranking sixth on the team, and added 5.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. He also recorded two interceptions, one fumble recovery and a pass breakup.
Coming into the 2019 season, Gay will be playing a lot at the weakside linebacker position as he and senior Leo Lewis will both have plenty of opportunities at the WILL position this season. Gay provides some of the best coverage skills of any linebacker in the Southeastern Conference.