There’s an old razor in college football recruiting circles that stipulates, “It’s never over until the ink is dry.” Or something to that effect. Well, with apologies to the officialdom preserved by National Letters of Intent, verbal commitments are the next best thing. And new Mississippi State Bulldogs head football coach Mike Leach recently secured his third verbal pledge for the 2021 class in four-star wide receiver Malik Nabers. The 6-foot, 185-pounder is a rising senior from Comeaux High School in Lafayette, Louisiana and he chose the maroon-wearing Bulldogs over 30 other offers, including Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Penn State, Miami (FL), Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia.
“I chose Mississippi State because of their loyalty,” Nabers told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. “The loyalty and their honesty with me played a big role in my decision. They recruited me until the end and their loyalty they brought to the table is what really stood out.”
During his junior campaign at Comeaux, Nabers used his 4.44 40-yard dash speed and 38-inch vertical jump to catch 58 passes for 1,223 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was also a starting defensive back for the Spartans. 247Sports lists Nabers as seventh among his class of wide receivers, and was also invited to play in the 2021 Under Armour All-America Game.
“Sturdy receiver with enough size to win on the outside,” 247Sports Director Barton Simmons wrote in an evaluation for a recent 247Sports article by Steve Wiltfong. “Plays with grit and toughness. Shows outstanding jump ball ability … good concentration in contested situations. Ambitious and active after the catch.” Nabers joins fellow 2021 class wide receiver verbal commit Theodore Knox (5-foot-11/ 165 pounds) of Woodlands, Texas, and quarterback commit Sawyer Robinson (6-foot-4/ 200 pounds) of Lubbock, Texas, both rated as four-star prospects by Rivals and 247Sports, in a potential budding nucleus for Coach Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” offense.
“I heard they have a good quarterback coming in,” Nabers told the Vicksburg Daily News. “Mike Leach likes to throw the ball and Teddy Knox is one of my friends. We were talking about it, and we think we can be a dual-threat like Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson were at LSU. We can bring that to State.”
Perhaps one day we will look back on Nabers’ comparison in a prophetic light. Coach Leach certainly brings an unknown, mischievous quality to Davis Wade Stadium and the Southeastern Conference writ large. He never had a losing season in 10 years at Texas Tech, and before leaving Wazzou after eight seasons, turned the perennial Pac-12 cellar-dweller Cougars into a winner that actually played defense. Mississippi State played for the SEC under Jackie Sherrill. Coach Dan Mullin X’d-and-O’d his way to seven winning seasons and six bowl victories, including a 52-14 pasting over hallowed Michigan in 2010. There is not a greater collection of institutions who care more about winning football games than the SEC. Football is king in the South. And winning those games starts with who you recruit to wear your colors on game day.
“You gotta have chicken to make chicken salad,” Paul W. Bryant once said. Well, in snagging Malik Nabers over a few SEC royals, including over those other Dawgs in Athens, Georgia, Coach Leach is giving Bulldog fans the most elemental reason to believe, as he melds his vision of wide-open, risk-taking, winning football.
“I wanted to have everything recruiting-wise to dial down,” Nabers told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser about picking the Bulldogs on his 17th birthday in order to focus on his upcoming senior season.
Now then. If we can just get pen to paper.