TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Late Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach coached in college for 35 seasons.
Jayden Hobson was one of the final under-the-radar prospects Leach recruited.
Hobson, a three-star Class of 2023 offensive lineman, signed with Mississippi State during the early national signing period Wednesday at Hillcrest High, about 90 miles from Starkville.
Hobson, 6-foot-5 and 293 pounds, didn’t have an offer seven months ago, and Mississippi State didn’t do so until October.
He met Leach only once, during his December official visit, about one week before Leach died following complications from a heart condition. Yet Hobson grew fond of Leach during the visit because of his honesty and their mutual love of football.
“I had fun with (Leach that weekend),” said Hobson, the No. 1,581 recruit in the nation according to the 247Sports Composite. “He was telling me about how he didn’t like school, school wasn’t fun for him, how every athlete wants to play football but don’t go to school. He said he was the same way. We’re just alike.”
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Hobson, a part of the final class Leach oversaw, said his death is added motivation to work hard and do something special as Mississippi State enters a new era.
“He’s a big dude, but he’s also got a big heart,” said Hillcrest coach Jamie Mitchell, a Mississippi State grad. “That really bothered him. He understands that Mississippi State was late, but they did a thorough evaluation on him. He doesn’t want to let them down, and certainly coach Leach’s situation is something I think he’ll carry with him.”
Hobson was on Mississippi State’s campus in April, but didn’t receive serious interest until this fall, when he became a 6A All-State first team selection.
He was committed to Southern Miss for over four months before switching to Mississippi State in November. Hobson’s high school offensive line coach is Burt Ashley, a Mississippi State offensive lineman from 1993-97.
“We always said it would only take just one coach to take notice in him and believe in him, and once one did things took off pretty quickly,” Hobson’s mother, Tiffany, said. “This has always been a dream of his to play college ball and play for the SEC. Now his dreams are all coming to life.”
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New Mississippi State coach Zach Arnett, defensive coordinator before Leach died, offered Hobson. The Bulldogs were drawn to Hobson for his speed off the line and athleticism. The offensive guard helped Hillcrest rushed for over 3,000 yards and 6.5 yards per carry to its fourth undefeated regular season in school history.
“He’s a kid that’s going to have to be developed, but you can’t teach his size and length,” Mitchell said. “His biggest gift is his speed and his footwork. He is a very agile dude at that size.”
Jerell Rushin is a recruiting reporter for the Tuscaloosa News and the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @JerellRushin_.