Junior Colleges

Gulf Coast leans on South Mississippi for talent

MGCCC coach Chad Huff.
MGCCC coach Chad Huff.

PERKINSTON -- Mississippi Gulf Coast celebrated what it considers a well-rounded 28-player signing class Wednesday.

"I think we really got some good players at every position who will merge with the kids we have coming back," coach Chad Huff said.

With the districts now open, junior colleges can recruit the entire state from the Coast to Memphis and the Mississippi River to the Alabama state line. Even with the added freedom, Gulf Coast made a point to build this class' foundation with South Mississippi standouts.

"I'm from the Coast and know what kind of football is down here. There's a lot of really great talent," Huff said. "We definitely want to focus on this area make sure we're doing a good job here in our back yard."

Coast signees included Gautier defensive end Alex Battiste, Resurrection athlete Paul Blackwell, George County tight end Brandon Walley and linebacker Kelijah Bradley, Stone athlete Tavarus Breland, Long Beach running back Mario Clark, Gulfport safety Deon Cole, who double-signed with Jackson State, and Admiral offensive lineman Stephon Cooper, St. Martin lineman Ricky Hunt and D'Iberville safety Ty Peters along with teammate Barry Leonardi, who could play defense but will start at Gulf Coast's tight end hybrid position "superback."

One of the standouts of the class was Oak Grove linebacker Deontae Haynes. He's a linebacker who can really fly round the field defensively and could make an immediate impact at Gulf Coast.

"He's well known throughout the state and we're really excited about him," Huff said. "He's a kid who reminds me of Reggio Dean. He plays so hard. That was a big pickup for us."

SEC connection

Gulf Coast officially announced the additions of five early enrollees, three with SEC ties: Auburn commit Daquan Newkirk, former LSU signee Brandon Martin and former LSU redshirt Travonte Valentine.

Valentine is the latest MGCCC addition, having played in 11 games at Arizona Western last year. He's a player who comes to Perkinston with a lot of potential, but also some baggage. Valentine never qualified academically in his year at LSU and also reportedly violated multiple team policies, leading to his dismissal from the program. Huff acknowledged Valentine's past and said if the defensive tackle can mature off the field, he should have a future on it.

"He's a kid who is very athletic. Watching him run, you don't see many 340-pound kids run like him. He's very explosive," Huff said. "There's a lot of talent, but again, talent is not enough. I keep telling him every day, 'you have to mature and grow up and understand you have to do things the right way.' If he does that, he has a chance to be successful."

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