By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi State had four players selected to the Southeastern Conference Preseason Coaches’ teams including defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, quarterback Chris Relf, running back Vick Ballard and defensive back Johnthan Banks.
Banks a former East Webster High School star from Maben, Miss., made the switch from safety to cornerback last year after an outstanding true freshman season. Banks, who was a former Starkville Daily News Preps Player of the Year selection out of high school, started 12
of 13 games at his left cornerback position and intercepted two passes while adding five pass breakups on the year on the 2011 campaign that saw the Bulldogs win a New Year’s Day bowl game for the first time since 1999.
Cox was the only MSU player named to a second-team selection being with Ole Miss defensive lineman Kentrell Lockett. Mississippi State was tied for eighth with Ole Miss and Vanderbilt in the conference in number of selections ahead of Tennessee and Kentucky.
Arkansas and Alabama had 14 and 13 selections respectively with the Crimson Tide program leading the conference with seven first team selections.
Cox, a Yazoo City native, posted 29 tackles on the 2010 season with 6.5 coming behind the line of scrimmage. He also had 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hurries last year.
Relf is the only returning starting quarterback in the SEC Western Division after throwing for 2,085 yards and rushing for 1,200 in his MSU career. Relf’s 136.87 career passing efficiency stands as the best in school history. The 6-foot-4 signal caller currently is eighth all-time with 18 career touchdown passes.
Relf finished behind Georgia sophomore Aaron Murray and senior Stephen Garcia in terms of signal callers by the 12 SEC coaches that vote in the preseason. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players on their preseason ballot.
Relf will hand the ball off to a second team tailback selection in Ballard after the rising senior set a new school record with 20 total touchdowns and 19 rushing touchdowns last year. Ballard posted 968 rushing yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. He will enter the 2011
campaign on the watch list for The Maxwell Award, which has been presented annually since 1937 to college football’s top player.
Ballard, Cox and Relf – along with Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen will represent Mississippi State at SEC Media Days next Wednesday.
Justin Cox will not report to MSU fall camp
Defensive back Justin Cox will not report to Mississippi State fall camp after signing with the Bulldogs program nearly a year ago.
The four-star prospect was unable to qualify at Mississippi State after signing out of nearby West Point High School and will enroll at East Mississippi Community College.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound athlete said via text message that he intends to eventually play at Mississippi State but according to NCAA rules will now have to wait two years before being able to suit up for a Division 1 program and will need to re-sign a National Letter-of-Intent with Mississippi State.
Cox also had offers from Louisiana Tech and Arkansas State and also drew letters and phone calls from Southern Miss and Ole Miss before eventually committing to MSU
“I feel like cornerback is a good position for me and I enjoyed playing it before,” Cox said last July. “I just want to make plays and so it’ll help I'm not totally new to that position.”
Cox was the 14th commitment to MSU’s 2011 recruiting class with the only unknown member not currently on the Starkville campus being Louisiana product Josh Robinson.
Mississippi State announced earlier this summer that Walnut High School athlete Shaquille Perry will be headed to Northeast Mississippi Community College.
MSU open practices begin Aug. 4
Fans will get their first look at the 2011 Mississippi State football team during three days of open practice sessions from Aug. 4-6.
The Bulldogs football program announced its summer schedule including practices Thursday.
MSU players will report August 1 with the first practice being at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday Aug. 4.
Two-a-day practices, which will be closed to the public, will begin Aug. 9 with classes at MSU beginning eight days later.