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Bulldogs’ “Bookie” Plus Three Invited to the Combine

It’s no secret that Mississippi State had a dismal 2023 season. Zach Arnett was thrown into a difficult situation in his first attempt as a head coach. He had to replace legendary coach Mike Leach in a heartbeat, to keep the team together following Leach’s death.  The rest is history, which State fans would rather forget. The team went 5-7, 1-6 in the SEC, which also interrupted 13 consecutive seasons going to a bowl. But as bad as the season was, some of the players were individual standouts, enough to get the attention of NFL scouts. Those include the Bulldog’s “Bookie” and three others invited to the NFL Combine. 321 players in total were invited.

Indianapolis will be the site of the Combine this year, from February 29th – March 4th. The Combine is a chance for NFL hopefuls to increase their value before the draft is held April 25th – 27th. A player’s results can potentially affect their draft placement and salary. It involves a series of workouts such as the 40-yard dash, bench pressing 225 pounds, vertical jump, position-specific drills, and others. Players’ size, weight, past injuries, and problem-solving capabilities will also be evaluated.

Nathaniel “Bookie” Watson – Linebacker

Bookie Watson was part of the outstanding linebacking duo of “Bookie and the Jett.” Watson’s running mate Jett Johnson led the SEC in tackles in 2022, but Watson was number two. In the 2023 season, they traded places with Watson leading the conference and Johnson at number two. They became the first pair of SEC teammates to lead the conference with total tackles in back-to-back seasons. His 10 sacks tied Alabama’s Dallas Turner for the most sacks in the conference. As one might imagine, many accolades came Watson’s way including first-team All-SEC (AP and College Football Network), second-team All-American (ESPN and College Football Network), one of five finalists for the Butkus Award, and AP’s SEC Defender of the Year. There are more but the list is too long.

Watson’s 137 tackles last season added up to his career-high of 240. That placed him at number four in the SEC, and number 15 in the NCAA. He was one of two Bulldogs invited to the Senior Bowl and did not disappoint. In a vote by his teammates, he was named “Top Linebacker” in the “Player of the Week Awards” for the American team. He led his team with seven tackles in the game.

In an interview with NFL Draft Lounge, Watson stated his desire to be in the NFL. “I want to prove that I’m a hard-working football player first and foremost,” Watson said. “I’m somebody that needs to be on their big board. I’m a player that’s worth drafting. I hope they keep their eyes on me.” Watson is 6’ 2” and 245 pounds. He is projected to go in the third or fourth round of the draft.

Jaden Crumedy – Defensive Lineman

Watson won’t be alone at the Combine, since he will have some familiar company. Jaden Crumedy was a standout interior defensive lineman for the Dawgs this season and was also a teammate at the Senior Bowl. He finished his college career with 47 total starts, 39 consecutive. As far as his stats, Crumedy had 119 total tackles, 39 solo, 16 for a loss, and 8.5 career sacks.

Playing in the NFL has been a dream of his since childhood. In an interview with WDAM-TV before the Senior Bowl, Crumedy had this to say about the opportunity. “It’s been a big dream, especially not having much to do as a young kid,” Crumedy said. “Imagining myself being in the NFL is truly a blessing and I thank God for that and I’m glad to be here.” He comes in at 6’ 5” and 305 pounds and is projected to go in the third round of the draft.

Lideatrick “Tulu” Griffin – Wide Receiver

In his four years at Mississippi State, Tulu Griffin was widely known for his punt and kickoff returns. In 2022, he was named an All-American and All-SEC in that position. He holds the NCAA and SEC records of 30.3 yards per return for that year. For career records, that 30.3 YPR places him at number three in the NCAA and number two in the SEC. He did have receptions as a wide receiver in 2022 but wasn’t utilized in that role as much as this past season. That’s when he became one of quarterback Will Rogers’ favorite targets. Griffin received an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game. He primarily served as a kick returner.

At 5’ 10” and 180 pounds, Griffin is not the tall wide receiver many may look for, but he more than makes up for that with his quickness. There was a lot of success for him as a slot receiver. Because of his size, some are speculating that he may be labeled as a “slot-only” wide receiver. He is also projected to go in round three of the draft. The Combine might do wonders for his draft stock.

Decamerion Richardson – Cornerback

Decamerion Richardson initially entered the transfer portal and committed to Ole Miss. That decision may not have gone over well with his teammates. Less than a month later. Richardson quickly decided to declare for the NFL and then received the invitation to the Combine. Many publications still call him an Ole Miss cornerback. However, most still see him as coming from the Bulldogs. At MSU, he was a standout in the secondary, a group that suffered heavily during the season and needed a standout. Richardson was always one of those cornerbacks who could come through when it was needed. He just couldn’t do it by himself.

He ended up number 10 in the SEC with his 79 solo tackles in 2023. Over his career, he made 177 tackles, 106 solo, and two for a loss.  At 6’ 2” and 195 pounds, he is a little bigger than former Bulldog Emmanuel Forbes. Forbes comes in at 5’ 10” and 180 pounds still he was taken in the first round last year and he started for the Commanders. Richardson is projected to also go in the third round.

Something Good from a Lousy Season

These four Dawgs have something in common besides playing football. All four made the SEC Academic Honor Roll, which might do them well following their football career. Until then, they are taking the next step in attaining their dreams of the NFL.

Regarding schedule, Watson and Crumedy will have their drills on Thursday, Richardson on Friday, and Griffin on Saturday. Bulldog fans will surely be watching the NFL Network through the draft to see something good come from the 2023 season.

Photo Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

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