Biggest Needs: MSU returns seven starters on offense, including quarterback Tyler Russell and running back LaDarius Perkins. However, Russell loses all his key receivers, including Chad Bumphis and tight end Marcus Green. Dan Mullen knew he had to address the receiver situation heading into the offseason, but the offensive line remains intact, which bodes well for 2013.
Defensively is where it gets a little hairy for MSU. The Bulldogs lose six starters, including tackle Josh Boyd, linebacker Cam Lawrence, and corners Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay. The Bulldogs also lose Corey Broomfield at safety, and replacing three of four in the secondary will be tough, considering how dominant Banks and Slay were at times, and only free safety Nickoe Whitley returns.
Needs Met: Seeing that the main priority for MSU on offense is wide receivers, Mullen signed five of them, headlined by Fred Ross. Ross is 6-2, 190 pounds and ready to make an impact next season. Ross had been committed to Oklahoma State, but MSU was able to sway him at the last minute. Early enrollee Jeremy Chappelle gets a head start on the other receivers by going through spring practice. It was also important that depth was built up behind Russell. Dak Prescott is already on the team, and MSU signed dual-threat quarterback Cord Sandberg from Florida. However, Sandberg could go pro in baseball.
Mullen also addressed the immediate needs in the secondary, too, by signing five defensive backs, the biggest of which is JUCO safety transfer Justin Cox, who is already enrolled. Cox will make an immediate splash. Remember, Darius Slay was a JUCO transfer, and he had a major impact in his second season at MSU at corner. In addition to Cox, safety Ashton Shumpert was the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year in high school, and it’s still not certain whether he will play safety or running back. The best corner of the class is the Starkville native Gabe Myles, who could see some action next season, too.
Biggest Get: Any time coaches can sign the top recruit in the state, it’s a big deal. Five-star defensive end Chris Jones ended up inking with MSU where he committed last summer. However, he blew up on the recruiting trail at the Under Armour All-American camp, and some listed Jones as the No. 2 prospect in the country behind Robert Nkemdiche. But Jones stayed to true to MSU and will suit up for the Bulldogs next season. He’s going to be a difference maker.
Biggest Miss: Corey Smith was committed to MSU before Ohio State came calling. The Akron, Ohio native and JUCO receiver signed with Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.
Final Evaluation: For as much pub as Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss received recently regarding recruiting, it was MSU who signed more top prospects in the state of Mississippi. And Dan Mullen has put back-to-back top 25 classes together, which includes five four-star or better defensive linemen in just the last two years. Mullen is addressing the needs on the core of his defense, and he’s building it from the inside out, which includes the top offensive linemen in the state in Jake Thomas.
Final Grade: B
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