With 1 key signature, Mississippi State has chance to bring in better class in 2017 than 2016
Mississippi State’s 2017 recruiting class hasn’t made any major noise lately.
The Bulldogs, like their Mississippi rival Ole Miss, have three in-state commits and are playing the waiting game on hometown 4-star linebacker Willie Gay.
After a rough start to last season, quarterback Nick Fitzgerald helped turned things around and the Bulldogs went into recruiting season with a bowl win against Miami of Ohio.
Dan Mullen has pillaged the state’s junior college ranks for two of his best commits, one to replace defensive end Johnathan Calvin’s production. Mullen also nabbed a local dynamic running back and is making a late push at the state’s top wide receiver.
And Mullen landed a 4-star quarterback in dual-threat Keytaon Thompson out of New Orleans.
SEC class rank: 9
Overall class rank: 26
Do they own the state? Neither Mississippi State or Ole Miss is winning the state of Mississippi. The top player, 5-star running back Cam Akers, chose Florida State.
Mississippi State and Ole Miss have three commits, only one more than LSU, which has two of the state’s top 7 players.
The top safety, 3-star C.J. Avery, committed to Louisville, and Hattiesburg wide receiver Jordan Murphy is going to Tennessee. If Willie Gay, a 4-star outside linebacker at Starkville stays in town, the Bulldogs would win the state over the Rebels. If Gay goes to LSU, it is a loss for the entire state of Mississippi.
The Bulldogs can make a major coup if they manage to steal Morton 4-star receiver D.D. Bowie away from the Rebels. Bowie is considered a hard Ole Miss commit, but after nearly the entire Mississippi State staff showed up to woo him last week, it’s now more a hard toss-up than a commitment to any team.
If Mississippi State manages to bring in Gay and Bowie along with hard commit Columbus 4-star RB Kylin Hill, it will have won the state with three its top five players; the other two Akers (FSU) and St. Stanislaus 4-star QB Myles Brennan going to LSU.
Top prospect: East Mississippi 4-star WDE Chauncey Rivers is projected to replace Calvin’s 11.5 tackles-for-loss and seven sacks. Among JUCO prospects, Rivers is the top weakside end in the country.
Rivers was part of Georgia’s 2015 signing class but had legal issues and was dismissed not long after new coach Kirby Smart arrived.
Still chasing: Mississippi’s two SEC schools are after Gay. Gay is a nearly 6-foot-2 ballhawk with offers from LSU, Michigan and Alabama as well. It is seemingly between LSU and Mississippi State, with Ole Miss holding a slim chance.
Strongest unit: The defensive line is getting a triple upgrade from the junior college ranks. From 4-star Rivers to 3-stars in Copiah-Lincoln 3-star DL Deion Pope (6-foot-4, 280) and 3-star Itawamba CC DT Lee Autry (6-3, 310) to Pascagoula High 3-star DT James Jackson (6-3, 345), there are big bodies coming in to move the defense up from seventh in the SEC against the rush.
Better or worse than 2016 class? The Bulldogs’ 2016 class ranked 28th nationally and 11th in the SEC. That class included the controversial signing of 5-star defensive end Jeffery Simmons, who stayed out of the headlines during a successful freshman season.
That is right on pace to match this season. There is also a similarity with the state’s top available prospect. Last season Simmons was the state’s No. 1 player. When he chose Mississippi State on signing day, it aided the ranking. If Gay does the same thing Wednesday, the Bulldogs should finish better than last season.