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SMITH COLUMN: Cox, Banks are focused on Bulldogs

December 21, 2011

Mississippi State football players Fletcher Cox and Johnthan Banks could do something that only one other Bulldogs has done.
Cox and Banks can become the second and third juniors in MSU history to declare early for the National Football League Draft.
It takes an extremely talented underclassman to even consider leaving school to embark on a professional career, but there are indications that is something Cox and Banks are both considering.
The move seems more likely for Cox as Dan Kadar reported that sources have told Tony Pauline of Draft Insider and SI.com that he has already decided to forgo his senior season with the Bulldogs.
It certainly appears that Cox has all of the tools to be successful in the pros.
Cox was chosen a third-team All-American by The Associated Press, but he was a first-team All-American choice by Pro Football Weekly.
Cox was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference pick by the AP and a second-team selection by the SEC coaches. He was chosen the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week four times this season.
He has 49 tackles for MSU this season with 12.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
There has been very little said by Cox and Banks on the subject of their futures so anything that's reported at this time is mainly speculation.
It has to be a difficult decision to either remain in school and complete an education immediately, or take a chance for the potential big money that playing pro football could present. A factor in that kind of choice can be whether the player is projected to be a first-round pick or not.
All junior Bulldogs, including Banks and Cox, have filled out evaluation papers with the NFL Draft scouting service in order to test the waters.
It would be nice to see where Banks, a former player at East Webster, stands and how scouts view his skills.
Don't expect him to confirm his thoughts on the matter.
"I'm not focused on that," Banks said last week. "I'm focused on playing Mississippi State football. I'm focused on the bowl game and just getting it done."
Banks won't have long to make up his mind after MSU plays its bowl game.
The Bulldogs have wrapped up on-campus preparations for the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn., on Dec. 30. The deadline to declare for the NFL draft is Jan. 15.
Cox and Banks have been instrumental in helping the Bulldogs to back-to-back bowl appearances.
If they do decide to leave the Bulldogs early, their departures will hurt the team on both sides of the football.
Sure, it will help MSU to have them back next year, but it's a choice they have to make for themselves and their families.
The future of the Bulldogs should not be a factor in what Cox and Banks decide.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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