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Don’t forget about that other SEC school in Mississippi

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Much of the talk throughout the SEC, and around the entire country for that matter, is centered on Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze – and rightfully so, after his monster recruiting class. But let’s not forget about that other in-state school Mississippi State, who owned the Magnolia State for the last three years prior to 2012.

2013 is a crucial and critical season for the direction of MSU’s program under Dan Mullen. State’s fantastic 7-0 start propelled them to No. 11 in the BCS, but it pales in comparison to the dismal 1-5 finish in their last six. MSU fans may call it a monumental collapse; I would call the hot start having everything to do with a weak schedule. Jackson State, Troy, South Alabama and Middle Tennessee aren’t exactly the stellar squads that mentally and physically prepare any team for the rigors of the in-conference gauntlet. The sexy start prompted the #WeBelieve hashtag before heading to Tuscaloosa. And you know what happened from there.

Something had to change, and something did change when Mullen named Geoff Collins new defensive coordinator before Chris Wilson bolted to become Georgia’s new defensive line coach. One of the most veteran defenses in the SEC looked lost down the stretch under Wilson. MSU allowed more than 500 yards of total offense against Troy, TAMU and Ole Miss. Collins is a much more aggressive play caller, which should make a difference next season.

The offense, too, led by Mullen and Les Koenning played uninspired football down the stretch. The running game failed to reach 100 yards against Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss, and the play calls didn’t cater to quarterback Tyler Russell’s strengths. Mullen needs to energize his offense and become more innovative in his play calling, something he was known for at Utah and Florida.

Still, amidst all the smoke and letdown, there is a reason for optimism. And while the rest of the country’s praise and adoration are headed to Oxford, it’s MSU that has finished with back-to-back top 25 recruiting classes; it’s MSU that signed more top prospects in the state of Mississippi this season. Ole Miss finished ranked in the 40s last recruiting class in Freeze’s first couple of months on the job. But MSU has put together strong back-to-back classes. That bodes well for the future.

Mullen is building the core of his team and signing prospects who are difference-makers on the defensive line. The state’s top overall prospect in five-star defensive end Chris Jones signed with MSU, after he flirted with Ole Miss towards the end of the process. Last season, Mullen signed JUCO star Denico Autry and two high school four-star defensive tackles in Nick James and Quay Evans. He also signed four-star defensive end AJ Jefferson in the same class. That’s four top defensive linemen in two straight classes, and it will pay dividends not only this season, but for 2014 as well.

MSU also signed one of the top athletes in the state in Ashton Shumpert, who just happens to be Mississippi’s Gatorade Player of the Year. Shumpert is listed as an athlete in some services, as well as a safety in others, but he’s a dynamic running back, too. He’s talented enough to play either position.

MSU also signed the top offensive lineman in the state of Mississippi in 6-5, 300-pound offensive tackle Jake Thomas. And State is known for developing offensive linemen.

Sure, MSU’s 2013 class didn’t have the star power of Ole Miss’, but back-to-back top 25 classes and signing more top in-state prospects bode well for the future.

Mullen’s future and tenure at MSU could be defined in 2013.

Photo Credit: Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE





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Comments 4

  1. Can’t stand Mullen but he is the best coach they have ever had

  2. Thanks for bringing attention to the Dawgs, John….

    I’m really happy with our class, and with that, I have been extremely happy with Mullen and Co’s ability to assess talent, and bring in some studs and NFL talent. Even brings in a number of players that pan out, who come in without the star power. I think the jewel of the class, outside of Chris Jones and Shump, has to be WR Fred Ross, who should play immediately. One heck of a steal away from Ok State.

    I personally think we could see a slight reversal in State and OM’s 2012 season, in 2013. State and OM have difficult schedules, but putting the pieces back together in Starkville, and the momentum that OM gained over the last third of 2012, will provide us with this result. I can see OM streaking out to an 8 win season, with State either winning the Egg Bowl to get back to bowl eligibility, or getting their 8th win with the Egg Bowl. Like I said, very similar to 2012 for both teams, with the slight reversal. Not because I’m biased, but I personally believe that Mullen and the Bulldogs took the last 3 years for granted, and went into Oxford expecting the same. Instead, they got dominated after not capitalizing.

    All in all, I was extremely disappointed with our finish in 2012. I personally think we are a much better team than we showed, but played awful in Bama- when you at least have to be competitive; failed to bounce back and show life vs TAMU; let mistakes plague what could have been a much closer game at LSU; and handed away the Egg Bowl in the first half by not capitalizing on turnovers. Absolutely pitiful. Don’t even get me started on the Bowl Game, when Russell decided to have his worst game of his career.

    I see LSU providing State and OM with a usually un-expected win this season, and can only see them winning no more than 8 games.

    As bad as we needed changes on D, I still think we need changes on Offense. I’m still a HUGE fan of using Coach Brewster as our Off. Coordinator. Props to him as well, in that he is about our only coach that knows how to use social media and recruits his tail off.

    Mark my words, last year’s 8 wins were a given, but this year’s will be an uphill battle.

  3. Great read and I couldn’t agree more Jon.

  4. dexd
    Commented : 7 months ago

    It looks like a long season in Starkville. I’m thinking 4-8. After Kentucky, it’s will be a tough uphill battle against Bama, A&M, Carolina, Arkansas and Ole Miss. The bulldogs will be lucky to beat Troy. I hate to say it, but I think the team will quit on Mullen at some point. There have to be some major changes on offense. The bulldogs just can’t continue to run the same plays. It’s been the same thing for the past five years. I watch the game last night and saw how Auburn’s QB drove the team down the field on that last drive and I have to ask ‘why can’t the bulldogs have a QB and receivers on the same page like that? Is it coaching, talent, or both? Like it or not, a call may have to be made to Bobby Petrino.