STARKVILLE — Jalen Mayden is looking for a chance.
After entering the transfer portal earlier this fall, The Dispatch caught up with the former Mississippi State signal caller and one-time four-star recruit to gauge how his recruiting process has gone since leaving Starkville.
Here’s an exclusive look at what Mayden had to say:
This interview has been edited for clarity and length
Ben Portnoy: So obviously you’re transferring in the middle of a season, middle of a pandemic, how have things gone for you since you entered the portal?
Jalen Mayden: “Some of it’s kind of like high school with all the coaches calling you and stuff like that. But the pandemic, you can’t take visits and stuff like that. So kind of just over the phone with it.”
BP: You mention stuff being over the phone, have you been able to do any of the virtual visits? What were those like compared to in-person?
JM: “Most of the schools have a site where you can just go and look, and they literally take you to every detail part of the campus or stadium or any place that you want to go. So kind of getting the feel through looking at those.”
BP: All that said, why did you decide that you wanted to transfer from Mississippi State and what went into your decision?
JM: “I just think it was just one or two of the games where I felt like, if Will was the second string, they would have put him without hesitation and when I was second string, they kind of hesitated and didn’t do it. So I felt like that was the statement of I didn’t have any future there. They had pretty much chosen who they had in mind. So I figured it’d give me more time to get out earlier.”
BP: You mention wanting to get out earlier, was that in an effort to give yourself a little more time to go through the process?
JM: “Yeah a little bit more time to go through the process. I mean, a lot of people were saying wait till after the season, but pretty much then everybody’s got the recruits that they want to have signed early with the early Signing Day. I just didn’t want to have to rush anything.”
BP: In terms of that, we’ve seen tons of quarterbacks nationwide transfer in recent years. What’s it been like for you being a free agent of sorts, and particularly at the quarterback position?
JM: “I’ve kind of just watched a whole bunch of college football. Looked at teams that, no (disrespect to) the players, but look like they need a quarterback and then kind of reach out to those coaches if they haven’t already reached out to you and just try to build a relationship.”
BP: How has that been trying to manage building relationships virtually versus in-person like you did in high school?
JM: “With the whole school thing being over, I mean, it’s pretty much just workouts and stuff like that. I pretty much got all day to talk to coaches. It’s been easy for me. Other quarterbacks that haven’t left are probably still in school so they still have to deal with school work and trying to get all that stuff done. But I pretty much have a lot of free time.”
BP: Have you just been working out at your high school?
JM: “Yes, sir. We get to do that and then a lot of JUCO kids are still around right now. And they all know that I’m back in town so we always go get some work in ’cause their season is in the spring and they’re obviously working out right now. So almost every day, twice a day, they’ve been trying to hit me up to get out there. But I just came back from watching my homie at Texas State — they got blown out — but other than that it’s been a grind.”
BP: With the work you’re putting in day-to-day, what are you really keying in on or focusing on and trying to take the next step with?
JM: “Really just trying to envision game-like plays, trying to make decisions — even routes on air — trying not to look at one person. I’m trying to act like there’s some type of read or some type of progression and just making sure I keep my base. Sometimes I overstride or when I move up in the pocket, I might just let my feet get a little wild sometimes. So trying to make subtle movements and be accurate with it.”
BP: In terms of what you went through at MSU, you committed to Dan Mullen, played for Joe Moorhead and then spent a chunk of this year under Mike Leach, what was that like as a quarterback to go through all those different schemes?
JM: “You kind of get nervous at first, because you’re like,’OK, who are they gonna hire?’ Then you’re like, ‘I hope the offensive scheme fits.’ And then once that happens, you’re like, alright well you’ve got to do the best you can to try to make an impression and learn the offense as quick as you can since everybody is pretty much starting on ground zero.
If there’s a starter last year, he’s pretty much still going to be the guy. But when either of the coaches came in both of them had spin offs from my high school. So like, Coach Leach’s is more what I did in high school, because my coaches were big, Baylor, Texas Tech, and every year they would go to those coaching conventions and come back with that style. And then my senior year, we added a new (offensive coordinator), and he was more like Coach Moorhead with the (Run-pass options). So I really got to play in both. So when we got Leach, I was real excited because they’ll be the same plays and stuff like that, and they were the exact same plays from my high school.”
BP: Having seen all of those different offensive schemes, how much does that help you when going through the recruiting process again now and selling yourself as being a guy that can fit in a couple different systems?
JM: “It definitely prepared me how to study for a new playbook, how not to look at the whole playbook at once, but to break it down in sections. Know what each play is designed for — not every play is designed for a touchdown. Some plays are three yard gains or just a first down. Like a hook/slant concept is not something you want to hold the ball. It’s something where you want to anticipate the linebacker flowing, or is he not flowing, and then taking what the defense gives you.
So just being able to break down each and every play, see what it’s designed for — that’s one of the many things that I’ve noticed I’ve grown from with all the new coaching staffs.”
BP: Now closing in on the early signing period, do you have any top schools or a timeline for your decision?
JM: “I don’t really have any top schools as of now, but I know I’ve got two or three more weeks before I’ve got to make a decision.”
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.