STARKVILLE — The Starkville High School football team has a choice at 7 tonight when it plays at Greenville-Weston.
Four-star prospect Gerri Green does everything for his team, so the dilemma for Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell and his coaching staff is to let Green shine at linebacker and H-back and try to shut down his teammates or to prove the Mississippi State verbal commitment is human.
“I think I’ve been blessed with the ability to play so fast each and every play I’m out there no matter what side of the ball I’m on,” Green said. “I think what teams have to realize about me is just because I’m a bigger guy doesn’t mean I’ll get there slow.”
Last year, Green had 89 tackles, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. Last week in a 31-0 loss to Warren Central, Green had eight tackles, one fumble forced, and one tackle for loss. This season, Greenville-Weston (1-5, 0-2 Class 6A, Region 1) has used Green on the line, as a blitzing linebacker, and a pass defender in coverage. He also has four catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns. At MSU, Green expects to be a versatile outside linebacker.
“Not many get the opportunity to play at the next level with a scholarship, so I appreciate each and every chance somebody gives to me,” Green said. “Being from the Mississippi Delta is a blessing because there’s just something about coming from that place that makes you enjoy hard work whether it’s on the football field or in life.”
Green picked MSU over offers from Auburn,Tennessee, Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt.
“Coach Collins, coach (David) Turner, and coach (Tony) Hughes also played a big role with me,” Green said after he committed. “I got to know what kind of people they are, too, and they helped me fall in love with Mississippi State. I saw it first hand that they were not just telling me things. I got to see it for myself and got to see what kind of coaches and people they are.”
The last time Starkville faced a player committed to a Southeastern Conference program was 2010. Mitchell’s defense held Tupelo’s Ashton Shumpert to minimal yards in a 47-14 home victory.
Starkville (4-2, 2-0) has the athletes at linebacker with Taylor Johnston and Marlow Rogers to contain Green over the middle. Johnston and Rogers also have helped Starkville stop the running game in victories against Columbus and Northwest Rankin.
“I think what happened to us earlier in the season was maybe the best thing to happen because we needed something to kick us in the butt,” Johnston said. “We’re back to stopping the run and forcing teams to beat us doing something they don’t want to do.”
Last week, quarterback Princeton Jones scored four touchdowns in a 35-0 victory against Northwest Rankin. For the first time this season, the senior has a 50-percent completion percentage. The converted wide receiver has 13 touchdown passes and has thrown for 1,071 yards. Mitchell said the coaching staff continues to give Jones more responsibility as long as he takes care of the football.
“We’ve opened up the playbook for him, sure, but I really think he realizes more and more he’s dealing with the best set of receivers in the state of Mississippi,” Mitchell said. “All we can ask of Princeton is to get better each and every day at practice and for the most part, he’s done that.”
Mitchell said tailback Jacquez Horsley will be out for the next couple of weeks due to a foot injury suffered on the first play against Northwest Rankin.
With the winner of tonight’s Madison Central-Warren Central game guaranteed to fall from the unbeaten ranks in region play, a victory by Starkville would put it in a possible winner-take-all game next week when it plays host to Madison Central.
“Everybody realizes the position we can put ourselves in over the next couple of weeks, but what is important to remember is this is a new class and region for us so no game, especially on the road is a automatic win,”
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.