By Jamie Wachter / Sports Editor
The Meridian Star
One season after sending three defensive linemen to Division I schools on the first day of the mid-year signing period, including two to Southeastern Conference schools, East Mississippi topped it Wednesday. Four of the 11 Lions that signed with Division I schools were defensive linemen including two of the four heading to the SEC.
Scooba Tech has become Defensive Line CC.
“I'll be honest with you, we've been very, very lucky,” EMCC coach Buddy Stephens said. “We've gotten to where we've put out a lot of quarterbacks and a lot of defensive linemen the past few years and we feel very fortunate that we've had some really good athletes and really good people that have played for us.”
Last season, the national champion Lions had Denico Autry (Mississippi State), Damien Jacobs (Florida) and Brandon Moore (Texas) sign off their defensive line. Wednesday, EMCC sent Darious Cummings to Florida, Za'Darius Smith to Kentucky, Montavious Foster to Colorado State and Maurice Bennett to Western Kentucky.
Smith, a second-team All-American, had 47 tackles and a team-high 6.5 sacks and is now heading to Lexington, Ky., following Jimmy Brumbaugh, who is the defensive line coach at Kentucky on new coach Mark Stoops' staff after spending last season in the same role for EMCC.
Cummings, who arrived in Scooba from Florida State, is now headed to the Seminoles' in-state rival after recording 26 tackles and three sacks in his one season with the Lions. Also moving on after spending just one season on EMCC's star-studded defensive line are Foster and Bennett. The two in-state recruits are now headed to FBS schools after teaming for 33 tackles.
“They're all really good,” Stephens said. “They're great kids and really good football players. We've been very fortunate to have those kids and they're all very good football players. They're explosive defensive linemen and we've really gotten to where we're accustomed to having those kind of defensive linemen every year and this is kind of where people start looking now for big-time defensive linemen.”
Cleaning up behind that group of linemen were safety Justin Cox and linebacker D.J. Jordan. Cox, a former Mississippi State signee, is headed to the Bulldogs again after an All-American season that included 52 tackles, tied for second on the team, and a team-high six interceptions. Jordan, who equaled Cox with the 52 tackles, signed with Tennessee-Martin.
Another former Division I signee heading back to that original school is Nick Brassell, a wide receiver and defensive back who is returning to Mississippi after one season with the Lions. Brassell, who won't actually sign a letter-of-intent with the Rebels after spending the 2011 season with them, had 48 receptions for 663 yards and six touchdowns for EMCC. He also had four tackles.
Freshman quarterback Quez Johnson, who was an honorable mention All-American in his lone season running the Lions' high-octane spread attack, signed with Florida Atlantic. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder, threw for 2,846 yards and 27 touchdowns, completing 59.3 percent of his passes. Johnson also rushed for 540 yards and 12 touchdowns. Johnson is the fourth straight Lion quarterback to sign Division I under Stephens as Randall Mackey signed with Ole Miss, Brad Henderson headed to Northwestern State and Bo Wallace also signed with Ole Miss after an NJCAA record-setting season in Scooba.
Providing balance to EMCC's offense the past two seasons was running back Rodriguez Moore. Moore, a 5-10, 185-pounder, rushed for 908 yards this season after a 1,300-yard freshman campaign. Moore also hauled in 26 passes for 227 yards. That all-around skillset is now taking Moore to Cincinnati, where he is following coach Tommy Tuberville after originally committing to Tuberville at Texas Tech.
“I think he's a complete back and I think Cincinnati is getting a steal,” Stephens said. “A lot of people think Za'Darius going to Kentucky is a steal for Kentucky, I think Rodriguez going to Cincinnati is a steal for Cincinnati.”
Staying in the state are Billy Shed, a wide receiver heading to Alcorn State after hauling in 39 passes for 477 yards, and offensive lineman Jarrod Atterberry, who signed with Mississippi Valley State.
“They're all really great athletes and we've still got some great athletes that will be signing on signing day in February,” Stephens added. “That's a pretty nice haul for mid-term.”