Ole Miss

‘I didn’t know what to say.’ Coast football star picks up 1st offer from SEC program

George County receiver M.J. Daniels looks for yardage during a game against Gulfport in Lyman on Aug. 17, 2018.
George County receiver M.J. Daniels looks for yardage during a game against Gulfport in Lyman on Aug. 17, 2018. Sun Herald file

George County High School has become a popular stop on the SEC recruiting trail and junior defensive back/receive M.J. Daniels appears ready to keep that tradition going.

As he was leaving a Thursday morning class on the Lucedale campus, Daniels received a phone call from Ole Miss receivers coach Jacob Peeler and head coach Matt Luke. The two coaches told him they like what they have seen out of him on film and that he has a football scholarship waiting on him in Oxford.

“I was so excited I didn’t know what to say,” he said. “It’s my first offer. I love it.”

Daniels quickly called his dad and mom to inform them of the news.

“They said they were proud of me and that I have to keep working harder,” Daniels said.

If Daniels signs with Ole Miss or any other SEC school as part of the class of 2021, that would likely give the George County football program a third SEC signee in three years. Former GCHS defensive back Dylan Lawrence signed with Mississippi State in February and senior defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson has narrowed his list of schools to Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Daniels is in the middle of what has been an impressive junior season so far. He has 10 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns at receiver to go with 15 tackles and two interceptions as a defensive back.

George County football coach Matt Caldwell has seen significant improvement out of Daniels this season after he played quarterback, receiver and defensive back as a sophomore.

“I think he’s improved his ball skills and he plays with a high knowledge of the game,” Caldwell said. “He understands route running. He understands coverages. He’s taken great strides at doing the little things right.”

Daniels, who has packed on 20 pounds since his sophomore season, first heard from Ole Miss a little over a week ago when they invited him to attend Saturday’s 40-29 win over Southeastern Louisiana in Oxford.

“I loved it,” he said of his visit. “I felt like I was at home when I was there.”

South Alabama is the only other FBS program that has made contact with Daniels, who also plays baseball and basketball.

Daniels said that Ole Miss coaches believe he will play on defense as either a cornerback or safety, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that baseball could also be an option.

George County baseball coach Brandon Davis received a call from Ole Miss baseball recruiting coordinator Carl Lafferty on Thursday and the two discussed the prospect of Daniels becoming a two-sports star for the Rebels. Lafferty mentioned a pair of freshmen, Jerrion Ealy and John Rhys Plumlee, who will play football and baseball during the 2019-20 school year.

“If M.J. wanted to go that direction, he would be a good fit in that program,” Davis said.

Davis expects Daniels to pitch and play center field for George County during his junior year.

“He’s an electric kid,” Davis said. “He makes it look easy.

“He had a really good summer. He’s going to get to balls that most outfielders can’t get to. He’ll be low 90’s off the mound as well. He’ll be another 90-mile-an-hour arm out of George County. He’ll sit 88-90 and touch 92 this year. As a senior, he’ll be low to mid 90’s and a possibly (MLB) draft guy if he progresses.”

Away from the football field and the baseball diamond, Daniels has the traits you’d want in a high school prospect.

“He has all those measurables you’d look for (at receiver or defensive back),” Caldwell said. “On top of that, he’s a good kid who does well in the classroom.”

New pledges

Two other Coast football players have announced their verbal commitments since the start of the season.

D’Iberville senior quarterback/athlete Jaden Walley picked Mississippi State over offers from Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss.

Walley is likely to play receiver for the Bulldogs after playing a variety of positions at D’Iberville.

Earlier this month, Biloxi senior offensive lineman Ryan Spiers verbally committed to Georgia Tech, choosing the Yellow Jackets over schools like South Alabama and UAB.

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.