Chris Lemonis and Staff Appreciate Multisport Athletes in Recruitment

Sports specialization has become a hot topic among those surrounding athletics these days and one could probably come up with a different opinion every day.

Playing sports at the college level and beyond is incredibly hard to do, and it takes hours, days, months, and years to hone a craft and become a sought-after athlete. For some, it comes much more naturally and does a lot of sports transitions well. For others, perfecting this craft means spending 12 months a year on the sport.

Chris Lemonis and Jacques Gautreau have a bit of both worlds in their recruiting philosophies, but coaches can’t help but be excited about a guy who has the ability to play on different terrains. Especially those who can order from the grill.

“I like footballers. There’s a tenacity, a physicality, the ability to be coached a little bit harder sometimes. We have a lot of those coming. We have several quarterbacks who have had football offers. We we actually have another football player coming – Sawyer Robertson“, said Lemonis. “It’s a little hard on this level because of the weather. You see him coming out with (Tanner Allen; he plays the game a little differently. I had very good football players over time. They said Tanner Leggett was a good football player at the time.

Allen was a high school quarterback and one of many crossing the pipeline for the Diamond Dawgs. As Lemonis mentioned, future Mike Leach quarterback Robertson plans to play baseball with the Diamond Dawgs next season.

Lemonis is already giving a try on how it might go with the second-year outfielder Brad Cumbest. The big right-hander has also played tight end/wide receiver for the Bulldogs since he’s been on campus and will move to the defensive line next season. While he’s batting .386 as a part-time starter this season with 17 hits, two doubles, two home runs and five RBIs, many wanted to see what he could do if he didn’t split his time with football in the offseason.

The coach thinks his player loves the opportunity to play both too much to give one up right now.

“When Brad is in the fall, he’s a football player and he loves it and wants to be a part of it. When he’s here in the spring, he’s got the baseball part. I’ve found that to be the case with all the two-way players I’ve had,” Lemonis said. “That doesn’t include the summer, I’m not sure they ever like two days of football. They transferred him to the defense and he is delighted with it. He was able to go to a few practices this spring. I think he’s locked into being a two-way guy.

Next year the Jackson Academy quarterback Jackson Conn will be on the rubber and throw the ball for the Bulldogs on the mound. outfielder Trey Higgins was an All-State quarterback at Oxford (Ala.) High School last season and one of the top athletes in the state. Jeffery Ince was a Mississippi All-Star at Jackson Prep while LHP Taylor Montiel quarterback for the football team at Brentwood Academy (Tennessee).

Pierre Blanton (Photo: Gene Swindoll, Gene Page, 247Sports)

Down the street there are others coming like Canton Academy Dakota Jordan in 2022, a four-star prospect Pierre Blanton who plays linebacker for MRA, the Starkville High School punter Ethan PulliamLeake Academy State Champion Riley Myers and Pascagoula quarterback Keilon Parnell the entire class of 2023. These are just a few that Lemonis and Gautreau have on board and know they will bring the mental and physical toughness it takes to play in the SEC — as well as athleticism and versatility.

Some of these players will give up football for the rest of their lives when they join the baseball team, but one couple will have the opportunity to play as both Blanton and Robertson.

For these players and others on the road, Lemonis doesn’t have as much hesitation as one might think. If a player can do the job on the pitch, he will have a chance to play. The relationship between the two teams remains paramount and players like Cumbest have an unforgettable experience.

“He is very grateful to Coach Leach and his staff. They were great working with us. They kind of accept that too,” Lemonis said. “We have guys like that coming on the road. Hopefully this paves a good path for the next guys.

“Their staff is great – we play golf together, we hang out together. It’s just about being in a small town and an SEC community. I enjoyed that game.

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