Has Mississippi State peaked under Dan Mullen?
During his seven seasons at Mississippi State, coach Dan Mullen’s success cannot be denied.
Mullen has led the Bulldogs to six straight bowl appearances, including a Orange Bowl bid in 2014. It was Mississippi State’s first trip to the Orange Bowl in more than 70 years. Behind Mullen’s leadership, the Bulldogs also reached their first ever No. 1 ranking in the history of the program.
Over the last six years, Mississippi State has won at least nine games in three different seasons. In the 29 seasons before Mullen’s arrival, the Bulldogs hit the nine-win mark just once.
He has already carved a legacy that will be remembered in Starkville for decades.
But that leaves Bulldogs fans with this difficult question: Is there anything else Mullen can accomplish while the coach at Mississippi State? Has he taken the program as far as it can go?
Although the obvious answer to the first question is to win the SEC West, SEC or even a National Championship, those goals seem rather lofty for a program with Mississippi State’s resources and history.
The Bulldogs simply do not have the same brand or facilities as competitors such as Alabama or LSU, making it hard to attract top recruits.
In its own state, the Bulldogs face stiff competition from Ole Miss Rebels, which has been to two straight New Year’s Six bowls and is attracting top recruits. If SEC recruits aren’t going to Alabama or LSU, Ole Miss often gobbles them up. And in order to win the SEC West, Mississippi State has to beat those three teams in the same year.
Mullen has admitted that Mississippi State is a “developmental program” — a program that given time and a great coaching staff can turn two- and three-star prospects into standouts. No one in the SEC gets more out of talent than Mullen.
But there in lies the crux of the problem. Unless Mississippi State improves its recruiting, there isn’t anywhere else for the program to go. According to 247 Sports, the Bulldogs have the 12th-best 2016 recruiting class in the conference and worst in the SEC West.
Despite all this and the fact the greatest player in Mississippi State history, Dak Prescott, is leaving, Mullen has decided to stay. That is quite admirable. His goal is to make the Bulldogs program the best it can ever be.
Unfortunately, there is at least a 50-50 chance the program is already there.