Mississippi State offensive lineman Gabe Jackson looks forward to returning to school for his senior season. (Photo submitted by MSU media relations)
Gabe Jackson and Johnthan Banks have a good amount in common and are different in some ways.
Jackson and Banks both decided to come back to Mississippi State for their senior years. Banks, who just finished his senior year, flirted with the NFL before returning to Starkville. Jackson will be going into his senior year and had a same experience with the NFL.
"I talked to coach (Dan) Mullen and my parents, and came up with a good decision to come back and finish my education up," Jackson said.
Jackson's feedback from the NFL wasn't his reason in coming back for his senior year.
"It wasn't bad or anything like that," Jackson said. "Coach Mullen gave me advice and he was like (told me) what my role could be this for the team, so I made my decision."
For the second straight year, Mullen will be having a big-name player return to play his senior year. He believes it says a good amount about the program.
"It just shows our guys' commitment," Mullen said. "I know we are thrilled to have him back. Getting to sit down and talk with families, No. 1 is a big deal for us. The commitment the guys have with the program, the family and toughness we have as a program is a big thing. I know Gabe wants to represent Mississippi State, represent the people of the state and show what he can do on the field as well as continue to develop to become a better football player, get his degree and walk out the door successful."
The 6-foot-4, 320-pound offensive guard, will be the catalyst of the offensive line in the fall. Banks was the centerpiece of the secondary and was second on the team with four interceptions. He also won the Jim Thorpe Award given to the top defensive back in the country.
"I talked to (Banks) about it and other guys I trusted that had the choice to leave," Jackson said. "He was like (you've got to) think what is best for you and the team. (He told me) just don't be selfish about the decision, so that's what I did."
The Bulldogs offense broke several passing and receiving records last season. They also had a 1,000-yard rusher in LaDarius Perkins. Jackson and the offensive line was a big part in all of it.
This season, Jackson sees the offense as one of the best.
"This year we have the most mature offensive line that we've every had since I've been here, and an older group of guys that is ready and hungry to get better," Jackson said. "We still have some great weapons to use. Jameon Lewis is coming back for a skill player, for a receiver. Josh Robinson will still be improving, so we've still got some weapons."
The offensive line will play another big role in next season's success. Getting to work in the spring is a top priory.
"(There are) just like a lot of hand placement and things we need to get better at," Jackson said. "The points that coach (John) Hevesy stresses."
Still for Jackson his ultimate goal is to get to the NFL. In his feedback from the league, Jackson was told "mid-round" for draft selection. That can only be higher next year if Jackson has another great season.
Jackson said there are some little things where he can improve, such as footwork.
There is still one Bulldog offensive lineman who has not made up his mind on whether to return or not. Tobias Smith has an opportunity to come back for a sixth year with a medical redshirt.
"We talked about that last semester," Jackson said. "I didn't want to stress him out on the his decision, so I let him make that on his own."
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