NFL watch list: MSU underclassmen

The last time a Mississippi State football player left school early to enter the NFL Draft? Olanda Truitt after the 1992 season. The wide receiver was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round of the 1993 NFL Draft. The Jackie Sherrill pupil was actually a transfer from one of Sherrill's old schools, Pittsburgh, and he only made it six seasons in the NFL. Playing for three different teams, Truitt ended his career with only 22 receptions.
Perhaps that is why no Bulldog has left school early since. However, that could change next year. It also could not, but MSU may be more likely to see a junior declare for the draft than it has been since the late '90s. We went over the potential 2012 draft prospects in MSU's senior class on both the offense and defense. Today, we take a look at three juniors who potentially could - emphasis on could - leave school early and declare for the draft.
Fletcher Cox
It all starts with Cox. He was the most disruptive defensive lineman in defensive line coach-turned-defensive coordinator Chris Wilson's unit in 2010. Even as a freshman in 2009 he became a force, then by the midway point in last season, opposing coaches had to gameplan for him. Then in spring practice in 2011 Cox, believe it or not, looked even better. Multiple coaches and teammates have said they think he is going to be the best defensive tackle in the SEC next year. If that's true, it may be hard to keep him in Maroon and White for much longer.
If Cox has a year even close to what Nick Fairley had for Auburn last year, and many seem to think he can, he'd be a sure-fire first or second day pick. If he knows that, would he stay in school? Even he may not know the answer. Of course, Cox may simply have a good year, more of an All-SEC level than All-American level. In that case Cox may stay.
Cox is listed at 6'4" and 300 pounds, and he was reported to have run a 4.47 40-yard dash in high school. That's NFL size and speed. Cox was double-teamed throughout 2010 and recorded 29 tackles, 6.5 for loss, and 2.5 sacks. He also forced a fumble and was credited with blocking two kicks. If Cox improves like many think he will, he may be the first Bulldog to leave early since 1993.
Josh Boyd
If we're going to talk about Cox, we have to talk about Boyd. Those two ought to be quite the tandem at defensive tackle in 2011, and just like Cox, Boyd played in all 12 games as a true freshman, then really emerged as a sophomore in 2010. Boyd was just behind Cox in total tackles with 24. He actually had one more tackle for loss at 7.5 and just as many sacks at 2.5.
Boyd is every bit as big, too, standing at 6'3" and 295 pounds. It seems that Boyd is occasionally overlooked, whether by fans or opposing teams, and that may be a positive for him. If offenses gameplan for Cox in 2011, Boyd could go nuts with one-on-ones and make an even bigger name for himself. The question may be, is there enough to go around for Cox and Boyd? MSU fans might want to hope that the two split the stats and manage to keep both of them on campus through their senior years. If Boyd makes the same progress from 2010 to 2011 as he did from 2009 to 2010, he may find himself with a big decision to make at the end of the season.
Chad Bumphis
Oddly enough, many MSU fans may have been more worried about Bumphis after his freshman season than entering his junior season in regards to the playmaker leaving after three years. Listed as one of the top 150 players in the country coming out of high school, Bumphis was all set to go to Florida until Dan Mullen took over in Starkville. In fact, the very first play of the Dan Mullen era was an end-around pass by Bumphis, the first play of his career. As a freshman, he led MSU in receiving, hauling in 32 balls for 375 yards and four touchdowns. He appeared to be MSU's most electric player and biggest playmaker outside of Anthony Dixon.
Bumphis was again MSU's top receiver in 2010, by a long shot, catching 44 passes for 634 yards and five touchdowns. In fact, he was third on the team and only 30 yards behind Vick Ballard in all-purpose yardage with 1,045 total, 131 rushing and 280 in kickoff and punt returns. It was clear that as Chris Relf developed as a passer Bumphis was able to do more as a receiver.
Now, if Relf improves as much as many of us think he will in 2011, it only makes sense that Bumphis will, too. The receiving corps. will be significantly less dependent on Bumphis in 2011, though, so his numbers may not inflate as much as they did his sophomore season. Bumphis is listed at 5'10" and 195 pounds, though he appeared to have put on some weight in the spring and is probably closer to 205, maybe even 210. At that size and with his skill set, he may be seen by NFL teams as a poor-man's Percy Harvin; fitting, as many MSU fans compared him to Mullen's former Florida playmaker when he signed with MSU. Is Bumphis likely to leave early? Right now, no. Could he? Well, if things go right in 2011, it's plenty possible.