Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College defensive coordinator Steve Davis and coach Chad Huff were giddy this time a year ago.
I covered one of the Bulldogs’ first practices of fall camp. One newcomer jogged past me and immediately caught my attention. Without a roster, I had to ask Davis who the kid was. Isaiah Buggs, he replied.
“Special. Special. He could be special. Again, he’s a true freshman who is 18 years old,” Davis said. “He’ll be at end. He can stuff the run and if they bring the option, he can run down the line and catch the quarterback from behind, so I kind of like him. A lot.”
I felt foolish even thinking this at the time, but having just moved to the Coast after covering Ole Miss, Buggs physically reminded me of Robert Nkemdiche. Knowing what I know now, I feel a bit better about the football comparison.
The Bulldogs knew the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Buggs had the potential to be an elite defensive end if he dedicated himself. A prep standout from Ruston, La., Buggs had even popped up on LSU’s radar before eventually heading to Perk.
Buggs made six tackles in his college debut and by the time he finished his freshman season, he had 59 tackles, four sacks and nearly every major school in the Southeast drooling.
Stack of offers
As the spring played out, Buggs seemed to pick up offers in clumps. Arkansas, Florida, Southern Cal, LSU, Ole Miss, you name it.
Several times since then, Buggs has appeared close to committing, only to take a step back and continue with his recruitment.
After Monday morning’s practice, Buggs said there’s still no timetable.
“I’m still weighing my recruitment out,” he said. “I slowed down my recruitment a little bit to stay focused on camp, football and the upcoming season, but I’m going to start looking back at teams once the season gets rolling on and come down to a commitment.”
Buggs doesn’t have a “leaderboard,” but said his top five schools “so far” are Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Auburn.
“It’s been a goal of mine since I was yay high,” he said. “I wanted to stay in the SEC and play at the highest level of football.”
LSU seemed at one point a slam dunk to get Buggs but for whatever reason the Tigers have been unable to finish.
Now it appears Buggs’ recruitment will continue into the foreseeable future.
“It’s coming, probably during the football season,” he said. “I just don’t know when.”
Flanking Buggs this season could be 6-foot-6, 270-pound Louisville signee Mike Boykin.
The Carrollton, Georgia, defensive end certainly looks the part. He’s still raw, but the potential is there to be an impact player for the Bulldogs.
“He’s fast and has a high motor,” Buggs said. “He’s going to be great.”
In addition to Boykin, the Bulldogs have a roster that’s loaded with players who transferred from FBS programs, signed with FBS programs but didn’t qualify or have started to grab the attention of recruiters.
Receiver Jonathan Nance is an Arkansas commit. Fellow receiver Brandon Martin signed with LSU out of high school and recently committed to Auburn before re-opening his recruitment.
Lineman D’Marcus Hayes has a long list of offers that includes Arkansas, Louisville and Auburn. Running back T’Rod Daniels committed to Southern Miss this summer.
That’s just a handful of standouts on the roster. Former Gulfport High players Deon Cole and J.J. Smith, along with Hancock’s Carson Jordan, have also received plenty of praise during fall camp.
“This team right here has national championship written all over it,” Buggs said. “It’s a good team. Everybody is coachable and know what they want to do. We’re going to win it all this year.”
Last Chance U
Perhaps Gulf Coast’s toughest competition for representing the MACJC this season is East Mississippi. The Lions were followed by Netflix film crews all of last season for a recently released six-part documentary titled “Last Chance U.”
Buggs said he watched parts of the documentary.
“We all kind of watched it a little bit, but that don’t really mean nothing to us,” he said. “They’re all about fashion and style, but we’re just going to get after it and play ball.”
EMCC was ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA preseason poll released Monday and MGCCC was No. 4. The two teams collide in Perkinston on Sept. 8.