On Monday night South Panola High School's Janari Dean had some important news he wanted to deliver. But first, he opted to have a little fun with his future head coach.
The end result was Dean committing to Mississippi State's Class of 2020 and becoming the 19th commitment for the Bulldogs' class. The 247Sports three-star safety is also the sixth commitment of the month for head coach Joe Moorhead and his staff.
"I actually pulled a prank on Coach Moorhead," said the 6-foot and 190-pound Dean. "I told him that I was about to commit to South Carolina and I just wanted to thank him for recruiting me. Coach Moorhead was asking me to re-consider my decision and to wait longer to decide. It was all funny and I had him going.
"But seriously, I've been knowing for awhile now that it would be Mississippi State. I've been talking to God and I've had dreams of playing for Mississippi State. So I figured it was time to make the move."
Dean is rated as the nation's No. 38 safety and the state's No. 17 prospect by 247Sports. He chose the Bulldogs over offers from Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Tennessee among others.
Dean has been a regular visitor to Starkville since last year and over that time, he's been able to build close bonds with Moorhead along with Bulldog assistants Bob Shoop and Tony Hughes.
"Coach Shoop is my guy and he has great plans for me," said Dean. "I'm not worried about anything with him because he has my back and I trust Coach Shoop to get me where I need to be. I talk with him and Coach Moorhead every day and Coach Moorhead is a great all-around person. He's a great dad and a great family guy.
"Coach Shoop has also put guys in the NFL. But whether you put guys in the NFL or not, it's about the mindset you have. I feel like I can be one of those guys and Coach Shoop said I remind him of Johnathan Abram. I know I have the talent and the mindset and Coach Shoop is the kind of guy that will help me develop."
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Fresh off a South Carolina official visit last weekend, Dean noted that his final decision came down to Mississippi State and South Carolina. He noted that both schools had what he was looking for but that he simply chose to stay closer to home.
"I mostly looked at education and the need for me on a team," Dean added. "Those were the most important things. Playing time was a big deal at both schools and I have the chance to play early at both schools. Then it came down to education and I want to major in wildlife management. Both schools had a good major in that field, too. But I always felt at home at Mississippi State and I just love the atmosphere and the vibe there. People are real there and don't act fake or snobby."
Last season Dean did most of his damage on the offensive side of the ball and helped South Panola make a return to the Class 6A playoffs. He rushed for 2,030 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior but expects to get more reps this year in the defensive backfield, as well.
He is also on track to be an early high school graduate and enroll at Mississippi State in January of 2020.
"I'm really excited about that and it's going to be great when I get there early," added Dean. "Not many get to come in early so that's going to be cool. I get a head start and I get the chance to get used to everything.
"Mississippi State wants me to play nickel and safety, and I know I can do that. I've played safety before but it just so happened that my coaches had me over at running back last year. That was a cool experience and I know I can adapt and play both ways and play it well. I will be at safety this year a lot more than I played last year."
Originally, Dean had set a decision date for July 4th and had previously released a Top 5 consisting of Mississippi State, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas and Tennessee. Obviously, those plans changed on Monday evening and Dean expects schools to continue to recruit him until signing day in December.
"People are saying they will still recruit me and I know that's part of it," Dean said. "But I'm a man of my word so I'm going to stick with this decision. I will take another official visit and that will be at Mississippi State either sometime during the season or right after the season."