Dwight Jacobs October Arkansas

Freshman Dwight Jacobs celebrates with his teammates during an October home game against Central Arkansas.

The Missouri State football team signed 18 players in the early signing period on Dec. 16. Head coach Bobby Petrino’s first recruiting class at MSU has talented players at every position on the field. 

As well as they performed in the shortened fall season, there were holes in the MSU roster. Petrino said he wanted to prioritize filling those holes in the early signing period. 

“Our emphasis going in (to the early signing period) on the offensive side of the ball was offensive line,” Petrino said in a press conference in December. “We wanted to get bigger, faster and more physical there.”

Petrino added that the program signed some versatile running backs who not only are good runners but good blockers and receivers as well. 

Defensively, the focus was to improve the linebacking core. 

“I thought we did a really nice job there,” Petrino said. “We got three guys that have speed and explosion, and really, all three of them can play any of the spots.”

The spots Petrino referred to are the mike, sam and will linebacker. The mike linebacker is the middle linebacker, and the sam and will linebackers play to the strength and weakness of the offensive formation respectively. 

Petrino and his staff also drew in some Division I Football Bowl Series transfers in the early signing period. 

Here’s a look at some of the recruits and what they’ve accomplished.

 

Udoka Ezeani, LB, Richmond, Texas 

Ezenai, standing 6-foot-2-inches and weighing 207 pounds, played outside linebacker at Foster High in Richmond, Texas. He consistently tackled the ball carrier in the backfield and showed elite closing speed and acceleration when the play was away from him. Ezenai led Foster to an 8-2 record in the 2020 season. He also attended the Rivals Elite Camp in February. 

 

Sean Fitzgerald, OL, Coastal Carolina

The 6-foot-2-inch, 290-pound senior spent his 2017 season at Michigan University before transferring to Coastal Carolina in 2018. Fitzgerald saw action in 24 games in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He entered the 2020 season as the Chanticleers backup guard. He was a four-year starter and a two-time all-state selection at Mt. Pleasant Senior High in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Fitzgerald’s transfer adds seniority and Football Bowl Series experience to the Bears’ offensive line. 

 

Kyriq McDonald, DB, Cincinnati 

McDonald fits perfectly into defensive coordinator Ryan Beard’s gameplan. McDonald is a versatile player who played boundary and nickel corner. McDonald redshirted as a freshman and spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons at Alabama University. He saw action in 11 games and was named Special Teams Player of the Week twice by the Crimson Tide coaching staff. McDonald showed great ball skills and elite special team potential as a junior and senior at James Clemens High in Huntsville, Alabama where he tallied 11 interceptions and five blocked punts. McDonald transferred to Cincinnati in the 2019 season where he played safety and nickel corner, which only adds to his versatility. He could prove to be a  useful tool in the MSU secondary. 

 

Offensive Line

MSU’s offensive line had issues in the shortened fall season. They allowed the opposing team to consistently pressure the quarterback and were the most penalized position on the team. However, Petrino and his staff achieved their goal of bolstering the offensive line during the early signing period.  

The staff signed seven players that can fill any position along the offensive line. Freshmen Brett Harris and Mark Hutchison have the potential to be building blocks among the offensive line, and players like Coastal Carolina transfer senior Sean Fitzgerald and Riverside City College transfer sophomore Ryan Suliafu could become immediate difference makers at their positions. 

Overall, the 18 player early signing class included three linebackers, seven offensive linemen, three running backs, a tight end, a defensive lineman, a wide receiver and a pair of defensive backs. 

 

Follow TJ Scott on Twitter, @iamtjs_

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