By Robert Wilson


         Brandon High alumnus and Mississippi State freshman quarterback Will Rogers set five school passing records, breaking three of legendary Bulldog Dak Prescott’s records, and four school freshman passing records this season.

         Rogers set passing records for highest completion percentage in a season (69.1), highest completion percentage for one game (minimum 15 attempts) (83.3 against Texas A&M), highest completion percentage for one game (minimum 25 attempts), (78.8 against Georgia), most completions in a game (45 against Ole Miss) and most passes in a game (61 against Ole Miss). Rogers broke the completion record of Prescott (66.2 in 2015), completion percentage for one game (minimum 15 attempts) of John Bond (81.3 against Tulane in 1982), completion percentage for one game (minimum 25 attempts) of Prescott (76.6 against Texas A&M in 2014), most completions in game of Prescott (38 against Arkansas in 2015) and most passes in one game of Joe Reed (53 against LSU in 1970). 

Photo by Jared Thomas

         Rogers set freshman passing records for most yards in a season (1,976 yards), completions in a season (239), most passes in a season (346) and most yards in a game (440 against Ole Miss). Rogers broke most yards in a season of Wayne Madkin (1,532 in 1998).

         Rogers’ completion percentage ranked 10th best in the country and highest by a freshman. His 45 completions were two short of the SEC record of 47 by Kentucky’s Tim Couch in 1998. Rogers is the first MSU quarterback to complete 30 or more passes in four consecutive games and the only freshman to throw for 300 yards in multiple games.

         Rogers became the seventh true freshman to start at quarterback at MSU since the NCAA began allowing freshman to play varsity in 1972 when he started against Vanderbilt. He completed 35 passes for 226 yards, the most by any freshman in their first start. He also joined Todd Jordan was the only MSU true freshman to throw a TD pass in their first start. 

         Rogers had the most consecutive passes without an interception in the SEC this season (176 in 13 quarters). Prescott holds the school record with 238 in 2015. Rogers did tie Prescott’s school record of most passes without an interception a game (52 against Georgia).

Rogers – the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Football Player of the Year last season at Brandon High — was the first freshman to start at quarterback for Mike Leach in his 20-year head coaching career. 

         “We, myself and our coaching staff at Brandon, aren’t surprised at how well and how quickly Will has played at Mississippi State and in the SEC,” Brandon coach Tyler Peterson said. “He is a leader, he’s coachable, a competitor and has a lot of skill at quarterback. We are having fun watching him at that level.” 


Hartfield Academy alumnus Brandon Buckhalter was one of 16 mid-year enrollees for Ole Miss who signed in December during the NCAA early signing period and is scheduled to begin school this month. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Buckhalter, who will play wide receiver at Ole Miss, played wide receiver, defensive back and returned kicks and punts at Hartfield. He ran seven times for 101 yards (14.4 yard average) and one TD, caught 28 passes for 542 yards (19.4 yard average) and nine TDs, returned six kickoffs for 151 yards (25.2 yard average) and one TD and returned three punts for 58 yards (12.7 yard average) this season. On defense, Buckhalter had 36 tackles, four interceptions and returned one fumble for a TD. Buckhalter was a two-time selection of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson team. 

“Brandon is very smart and is a student of the game,” said Ole Miss assistant coach Derrick Nix, who recruits the Metro Jackson area. “He is very versatile and can play inside and outside (receiver). Brandon has tremendous hands and does a great job of catching the ball in traffic.” 

“I believe Brandon is going to do great,” Hartfield coach Craig Bowman said. “He has all the skills and after watching (Ole Miss) Coach (Lane) Kiffen and his staff develop his players this past season I’m really excited to see how they develop Brandon.”


         Deion Smith, an Under Armour All-American who is rated as the No. 1 player in Mississippi and No. 7 wide receiver in the country, graduated early from Jackson Academy in December. He also signed with LSU in December during the NCAA early signing period and is in Baton Rouge going to school for the spring semester.

         “Deion started classes at LSU this week,” JA coach Lance Pogue said. “He will continue to rehab his injury and will be as good as new. Deion is in good shape. He’s a great kid and I expect big things for him at LSU and beyond. I’m very proud of him. He’s got a lot of potential. LSU has had a lot of great receivers go to the pros and from a talent standpoint Deion is right there with them. He’s fits the bill of being a great receiver at LSU.” 

Photo by Robert Smith

         Smith transferred to JA from Provine High this fall and had 988 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns before injuring his foot in the first quarter against Parklane in the first round of the playoffs. He had surgery in early November. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Smith averaged 19.7 yards every time he touched the ball for JA this season. Smith caught 36 passes for 640 yards (17.8 yard average) and seven TDs, ran eight times for 189 yards (23.6 yard average) and two TDs and returned six kickoffs for 159 yards (26.5 yard average) and one TD this season. Buckhalter was a two-time selection of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson team.

Deion’s younger brother, Dan, also transferred from Provine to JA. Dan caught 39 passes for 597 yards and four TDs this fall. Dan is staying at JA and will run track for the Raiders this spring, Pogue said. Dan has been offered in football by LSU. Dan caught 11 passes for 131 yards and two TDs in JA’s 28-21 semifinal victory over Jackson Prep, JA’s first win over Prep since 2013. JA finished 10-4 and lost to Madison-Ridgeland Academy in the MAIS Class 6A championship game.