East Central senior tight end Brad Cumbest had a strong junior year, serving as the main receiver in a run-first offense.
A year later, Cumbest has shown vast improvement.
A photo taken by the Sun Herald's Amanda McCoy on Friday night during a 31-7 win over Jeff Davis County shows exactly why the Mississippi State commit has emerged as one of the best high school players in the state this year. He's shown improved athleticism and can easily soar above defenders.
A year ago, he was simply targeted because he was taller than the man he was defending.
So far in 2017, he's been much sharper in his routes and shown improved strength.
“I really think the (college) camps helped him a lot,” East Central coach Seth Smith said. “He went to camps all summer and competed against not just some of the best kids in the state, but in the country. I think that gave him a lot of confidence.”
Cumbest's numbers may not show it at the moment with 13 catches for 153 yards and two scores, but the senior is one of the main reasons East Central is a genuine contender for a Class 4A South State title.
Cumbest grew a couple of inches in the offseason and now stands 6-foot-6 while packing on the weight to check in at 243 pounds.
Cumbest had his best game of the season last week, pulling in seven catches for 86 and one touchdown.
“I'm not very intelligent so we try to use common sense,” Smith said. “If they're going to cover him one-on-one and he's 6-5 and your guy is 5-9, we're going to try to take advantage of it. He's going to play in the SEC because he's an SEC player. You don't get to coach many of those so we're trying to take advantage of it.”
While the East Central offense is built around Sun Herald All-South Mississippi running back Tony Brown, the Hornets will be more of a threat to throw the football this season behind Cumbest and senior quarterback Rylee Brown, who features a strong arm.
“He's just going to throw it and I'm going to catch it,” Cumbest said. “That's how it's going to be.”
Cumbest also received scholarship offers from Ole Miss and Louisiana-Lafayette.