STARKVILLE — There was too much that stood out to go anyplace else.
That”s how former Clemson University linebacker Brandon Maye felt Monday when he decided to transfer to Mississippi State for his fifth and final season of college football.
The energy from the coaches and the chance to compete for a starting job and play for a top-25 program were overwhelming as he weighed MSU coach Dan Mullen”s offer against those from Kentucky and Texas A&M.
One of the overlooked factors in MSU”s transfer coup — he anticipates gaining eligibility this season due to Clemson not offering a sports administration graduate program — is Maye”s relationship with MSU football players Louis Watson and Chris Hughes, who also are from Mobile, Ala.
Maye said Watson, a junior cornerback, and Hughes, a sophomore linebacker, counseled him about the area and the level of success he can have in MSU”s linebacker-friendly scheme. Hughes was a sophomore at Davidson High School when Maye was a senior.
“Chris, that”s my boy,” Maye said. “When I was a senior, he was able to see the way we did things. Chris brings a lot to the table, and I”m excited to get down there and help him.”
Maye will graduate from Clemson on May 13 with a sociology degree. His anticipated clearance follows an NCAA rule that allows players to transfer to another Football Bowl Subdivision school without sitting the required year if their current school doesn”t off the graduate program they want to enter.
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was allowed to transfer from the University of Oregon to the University of Mississippi in a similar situation. Masoli was dismissed from the football team at Oregon.
“We”re excited to welcome Brandon to our family after he graduates with honors from Clemson,” Mullen said. “He”s a wonderful kid, model student-athlete, and a talented football player.
“Brandon will transfer here within the very spirit of the NCAA post-graduate transfer rule as he begins his pursuit of his master”s degree.”
Maye played in 35 games, earning 33 starts, in his career at Clemson. He tallied 233 tackles and established a school single-season record with five forced fumbles in 2009, a year in which he posted 103 tackles. He saw his playing time decrease from due to a position switch, which saw his total snaps decrease from 756 in 2009, to 353 in 2010, though he missed three games due to injury.
Maye will provide top-flight experience and will compete with senior Brandon Wilson for the starting middle linebacker spot vacated by Conerly Trophy winner Chris White. His knowledge and natural leadership will be coveted in a young group of linebackers that lost Michael Hunt this spring and three starters from last season”s team.
Redshirt freshmen Ferlando Bohanna and Matthew Wells will compete with junior Cam Lawrence and Hughes, but all will play in MSU”s frequent substitution packages.
Maye is anxious to provide the leadership MSU needs, especially when it comes to Hughes. The players couldn”t have had more different paths through high school and to MSU, as Maye was an honor student and dedicated to growing as an athlete at Davidson. He worked with a personal trainer to complement his workouts with the team and made a tremendous gain between his sophomore and junior years, Davidson High coach Fred Riley.
“If you looked at (Maye) as a freshman in high school, you would have never imagined he”d become a good linebacker in a BCS conference,” Riley said. “He”s the classic overachiever, which couldn”t be any different from Chris, who had a lot of things he needed to straighten out with his life to get to where he is.
“There were a lot of people in this school who helped Chris make the right decisions and get his grades together. Not all kids want help, but he took it and turned his life around.”
Hughes” speed and pop have Riley convinced he”ll be a productive player at MSU”s linebacking corps. Maye and Hughes also could play side-by-side.
Maye said Hughes has “limitless” potential.
“I”m thrilled because Dan Mullen is somebody we trust, and we know both of them will be in a great environment,” Riley said. “But for Chris to have Brandon, a player of that caliber and experience, be from his high school and want to see him succeed, it only helps Chris to become the player we all know he can be at Mississippi State.”
Hughes played in 11 games last season and finished with 13 tackles, one for a loss and a forced fumble.
Maye said he can relate to some of the trials and growing pains Hughes has experienced, and he”s proud Hughes followed in his footsteps as a BCS school linebacker out of Davidson.
“It”s really just an age when you start looking at some of the things that really matter,” Maye said. “Chris really grasped that concept. He”s one of those players who was always a very good player, but a very emotional player who needed to learn how to channel them in the right direction. He learned all those things, and that”s why he”s succeeding. He”s now got some great qualities on the field and as a man.”