The Mississippi State Bulldogs recently had a hit and a miss on the recruiting trail. The hit was the commitment of the No. 1 JuCo ILB in the country – Navonteque Strong – while the miss was the decommitment of 3-star DE Thomas Davis.
By Steve Wright
Both these players are part of the class of 2021 that the Bulldogs are putting together and the hope in Starkville will be that Strong can come in and provide immediate impact and outshine Davis at the FBS level.
Strong is an interesting prospect who picked the Bulldogs over the likes of SEC rival South Carolina, along with Colorado and Washington State among others. The fact that Strong is playing his JuCo ball at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College certainly didn’t hurt the Bulldogs in their recruitment of a player who finished his freshman season at the school with 104 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Strong’s numbers were a huge part of the school claiming the NJCAA national title last fall.
Mike Leach is looking for players that are able to provide an immediate impact in his first full recruiting class, and that is what Strong shows in his highlight film. He is a player that will make big plays at key times in-game, often showing up around the goal line or on an important third down to make a play to get his defense off of the field.
His first play (video below) here is a big sack where he splits offensive linemen and smashed the QB. The power of this hit – along with the technique – are the important factors to note on this play. Later in the video, we see how Strong is very adept at stringing out a play, running down the line of scrimmage and avoiding blockers to close in on and blast a running back. His combination of pass rush, pursuit, and downhill tackling make Strong an ideal fit for the Bulldogs 3-3-5 scheme.