Two of the Coast's top football prospects will be roommates at Mississippi State starting in January.
Pascagoula senior lineman James Jackson and Ocean Springs senior receiver Austin Williams are both set to graduate from high school early and enroll at MSU for the spring semester.
The two athletes committed to the Bulldogs in April and have become good friends. They'll begin their move to Starkville in early January and start classes on the ninth.
“I think he'll be a pretty cool roommate,” Jackson said. “He'll push me to do good and I'll do the same for him.”
Jackson and Williams will be soon joined in Starkville by another Jackson County football star, Gautier offensive lineman Paul Gainer, who is verbally committed to sign with the Bulldogs in February.
All three players have become close through their recruitment and they spent time together during preparations for the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game in Montgomery, Ala., last week.
Jackson, who stands 6-foot-3, 345 pounds, was a standout as a lineman on defense and offense for the Panthers.
His future at Mississippi State is on defense as a nose guard. It's a position he has some experience at on the high school level, but he knows he'll have plenty of work to do starting in the spring.
“I'm pretty excited about getting up there,” Jackson said. “It'll give me a head start. I'll get to know the playbook on defense.”
Jackson, who is considering majoring in education, is confident he'll have a chance at early playing time on the Bulldogs' defensive line. MSU is graduating its two starting defensive tackles — Nelson Adams and former Long Beach star Nick James.
“I think my chances of playing early are pretty big,” Jackson said. “They have a good bit of their linemen graduating. It depends on me going up there and what I do. It's all up to me.
“My goal is to just learn the defense, get stronger and work on my technique. I haven't played much nose guard, but I've played enough of it to get used to it.”
Jackson, who split snaps on offense and defense at Pascagoula, finished the 2016 season with 23 tackles.
Williams, who stands 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, had a nice senior season despite the fact that he was the clear go-to guy on nearly every pass play. He caught 48 passes for 697 yards and 13 touchdowns this year.
Williams will probably have a tougher path to early playing time with so many receivers returning for the 2017 season.
“I'm not sure how much of a chance I have, but getting in early gives me best chance,” Williams said. “I’ll put in the work and see what happens.”
As for Jackson as a roommate, Williams thinks all go with go smoothly.
“I think he's going to be a great roommate,” he said. “He’ll push me hard. We’ll have the same schedules and go to practice together. He’s a good fit for me.”
With the vast majority of his senior classmates waiting until the spring to graduate from high school, Jackson admits that the final days of his high school career have been a little odd.
“I'm more nervous than excited,” Jackson said of looking ahead to beginning college classes. “I'm going to be away from home for a long time.
“It's kind of weird. I'm nervous about leaving early, but I have Austin going up there with me. He's somebody I know.”