C.J. Bates among 11 Lions to sign with Division I schools

From combined reports


East Mississippi Community College continues to provide a pipeline for football talent moving onto the next level, as 11 players from the Lions’ 2013 NJCAA National Championship team signed National Letters of Intent with four-year universities Wednesday during the first day of the NCAA’s mid-year signing period for junior college transfers.

Former Louisville High School standout C.J. Bates signed with the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, which is coached by Winston County native Mark Hudspeth, as did his EMCC teammate Antoinne Adkins.

Bates and Adkins jointly led EMCC with 53 receptions apiece as well as eight touchdown catches each this past year. Having sat out the 2012 season following preseason knee surgery, Adkins became the first player in the history of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) to compete on two NJCAA National Championship squads. Adkins had 21 catches and seven rushing touchdowns as a freshman receiver/Wildcat quarterback on EMCC’s undefeated (12-0) 2011 national title team.

Bates is a redshirt freshman, meaning he will have three years of eligibility at ULL. He suffered a knee injury prior to the 2012 season and missed the entire year.

The University of Louisiana Lafayette recently completed its third consecutive nine-win season under Hudspeth with a 24-21 win over Tulane University in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday.

Included among EMCC’s initial 11 mid-year NCAA signees are five players heading to Southeastern Conference schools.  Defensive line teammates Jarran Reed (Goldsboro, N.C.) and D.J. Pettway (Pensacola, Fla.) inked with the two-time reigning BCS National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide.  Reed and Pettway anchored an EMCC defensive line that helped the unbeaten Lions limit the opposition to an average of less than 10 points per game this past season, including five shutouts during a six-week stretch.

Having spearheaded East Mississippi’s linebacker corps for the past two seasons, NJCAA All-American Christian Russell (Fayetteville, N.C.) will join former EMCC All-American quarterback Bo Wallace at Ole Miss.  Also joining a former EMCC All-American within the SEC ranks will be defensive back A.J. Stamps (Vicksburg), who will team up with former Lion defensive end Za’Darius Smith at the University of Kentucky.

Rounding out EMCC’s quintet of SEC signees thus far is 6-foot-5, 305-pound offensive lineman Avery Gennesy (Southaven), a two-year starter at left tackle for head coach Buddy Stephens’ Lions. The Texas A&M signee and first-team NJCAA All-American was the highest rated (No. 13) of EMCC’s four players ranked among the top 30 of the 2014 ESPN Junior College Top 50 prospects nationally.  Also on ESPN’s list from the Lions’ 12-0 squad this past season were Pettway (No. 16), Russell (No. 22) and Reed (No. 30).

As the headliner of East Mississippi’s record-setting offensive attack that averaged an NJCAA-leading 62.3 points per game and set a new NJCAA single-season record with 7,327 yards of total offense in 2013, first-team All-American quarterback Dontreal Pruitt will further his talents at Troy University.  The former Laurel High School standout ranked third among the NJCAA statistical leaders in passing yards per game (328.2 yds/gm), second with 45 passing touchdowns and fifth in pass completion percentage (64.3%) this past year for the Lions.

On the defensive side of the ball, NJCAA sacks leader Jimmie Gipson III chose the University of South Alabama to continue his collegiate career. The Olive Branch High School product was credited with a national-best 17 sacks for 140 yards lost to pace an EMCC club that topped the NJCAA team ranks with 67 sacks collectively in 2013.

Both hailing from Columbus, EMCC defensive back Byerson Cockrell selected the University of Nebraska, while offensive lineman Blake Sharp is headed to Louisiana Tech University.  With five career pass interceptions to his credit, Cockrell, who prepped at Columbus High School, was a key component to the Lions’ defensive secondary that ranked second nationally with 30 pass interceptions as a team this past season, including seven pick-six INTs.  Sharp, who played both offensive and defensive line at Heritage Academy, was a two-year starter at right tackle for the EMCC Lions.

With an average of 22 players per season having moved onto the four-year level under Stephens’ guidance since 2008, East Mississippi Community College is likely to have additional players sign with universities over the next few weeks. The NCAA’s mid-year signing period officially runs through Jan. 15, 2014.