Mississippi State recruiting grades at dead period
What a difference a year can make, especially when it was one of the best years in school history.
Mississippi State posted its first 10-win regular season in 74 years this season, spending five weeks as the No. 1 team in the nation for the first time ever. It’s already making a difference in recruiting, as Dan Mullen’s 2015 class is up to 28 hard commitments at this winter’s recruiting dead period.
Last year, Mullen attracted just three four-star prospects to come to Starkville. At this year’s dead period, he has six four-star prospects committed to MSU. And with 28 commits, Mullen has the chance to be more selective than ever before in putting the final touches on his 2015 haul.
This year’s recruiting class could decide whether the Bulldogs memorable 2014 season was the start of something great or just a flash in the pan.
We assigned grades to the class as of the recruiting dead period. Take a look:
OFFENSE: B+ (16 TOTAL COMMITS)
The Bulldogs 2015 recruiting class has as much depth as it does top talent on the offensive side of the ball. Of Mississippi State’s six four-star commitments, four play on the offense, and all four prospects play positions that could allow them to make a tremendous impact early in their college careers.
Malik Dear is one of the most dynamic athletes in the Class of 2015, and Mullen’s brilliant offensive mind can use his versatility and explosiveness in a number of ways. Tailback Nick Gibson could be a future 1,000-yard rusher, something Mullen has repeatedly produced with ease in his six years at MSU.
Tommy Champion is a bookend tackle capable of anchoring the offensive line for years to come, and junior college wideout Donald Gray could step right in and make plays in the passing game with two years of college ball under his belt.
The Bulldogs’ 12 three-star recruits on the offensive side of the ball aren’t too shabby either. Mississippi State has great depth at the skill positions with three tailbacks, four wideouts and four athletes in its current class.
But MSU lacks depth along the offensive line with just three prospects in this class (including Champion), and that’s the only thing keeping the Bulldogs from earning an A for their offensive recruits at this year’s dead period.
DEFENSE: B (12 TOTAL COMMITS)
Many of the Bulldogs best prospects play on offense, but their top two commitments from the Class of 2015 will both help improve an MSU defense ranked last in the SEC in explosive plays allowed this season.
Safety Jamal Peters is considered one of the best at his position in the entire country, and he’ll help stabilize a secondary that is still in flux two years after corners Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay both left for the NFL. Defensive tackle Fletcher Adams is another four-star prospect with a ton of upside, and he could follow in current tackle Chris Jones’ footsteps as the next monster in the middle of the Bulldogs defense.
Mississippi State attracted plenty of talent to play along the edges of the defense (four defensive ends, three outside linebackers and two cornerbacks), and MSU’s depth at those positions should help in defending the pass and rushing the passer in the coming years.
However, Peters is the only safety in the class, and Adams is the only interior lineman of the bunch. The Bulldogs may be able to attack from the edges and cover on the outside, but it lacks a replacement for Benardrick McKinney at middle linebacker and added it little depth to the heart of its defensive front.
With news breaking Tuesday morning that defensive coordinator Geoff Collins is leaving Mississippi State for Florida, the Bulldogs now must find a leader to develop star prospects like Peters and Adams, provided they’re still coming to Starkville without Collins on the staff. Mississippi State’s next coordinator must also find a defense that can maximize this year’s class, allowing for an aggressive pass rush with more freedom in the secondary.
Mississippi State has recruited well in areas that needed improvement after this season (namely the secondary), but it could grow vulnerable over the middle of the field in the coming years.
Mississippi State has one glaring need on each side of the ball as we enter the dead period.
The Bulldogs offensive line is losing its top three linemen from this year’s team in center Dillon Day, guard Ben Beckwith and tackle Blaine Clausell. In response to those departures, they’ve signed just three offensive linemen — two tackles and a center.
Among those three players, only Champion appears to be someone capable of making an early impact with the team, and if next year’s line suffers injury problems Mississippi State could face serious issues regarding depth up front.
On defense, the Bulldogs have done very little to address the absence of a playmaker up the middle. Jones will be back at defensive tackle next year, and along with Adams the two could terrorize opposing offensive lines from the heart of the defense.
However, aside from Peters, Mississippi State did very little to improve at inside linebacker or safety. Peters is a tremendous prospect, but considering how often MSU was beaten over the top in 2014 one would think the Bulldogs would value the safety position more than they have in their 2015 class.
Likewise, considering how well SEC offenses ran the ball this year, MSU could be in trouble with McKinney most likely leaving for the NFL and no new rookies entering the program to build depth at middle linebacker.
There will still be time to improve in these areas following the dead period, but for the most part Mississippi State’s current 2015 class appears to be one of its best in recent memory.