Mississippi State recruiting primer: Air Raid adds some flashy new weapons
As the Early Signing Period begins on Friday, Dec. 18, Mississippi State fans will look for what they have been expecting since Mike Leach arrived in Starkville in January: the arrival of some game-changing offensive players. As the 1st-year Bulldogs coach starts to build the program the way he likes, those recruits will start flocking to the Air Raid attack.
The program and Leach seem to be on their way to a good start, as this year’s signing class is full of potential stars at the offensive skill positions, including 4-star quarterback Sawyer Robertson.
Let’s take a closer look at the 2021 signing class:
By the numbers
- SEC rank: 10th
- National rank: 32nd
- 5-stars: 0
- 4-stars: 4
- 3-stars: 15
Top player: QB Sawyer Robertson, 4-star
Surprise, surprise! The top-rated commit so far for Leach is a quarterback. Robertson, the 10th-ranked pro-style quarterback in the class, stands 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds and has every pass in his repertoire, something desired for the Air Raid attack.
His ball placement is top-notch and, as his footwork improves after some coaching-up in college, he will continue to become even more accurate, something that is already a strength. He will likely be able to immediately compete for the starting job next fall.
Class strength: Wide receiver
Robertson will have no shortage of players to throw the ball to as Leach and his staff have brought in a quality wide receiver class, led by 3-stars Theodore Knox (The Woodlands, Texas, No. 41 WR) and Malik Nabers (Youngsville, La., No. 42 WR). Knox is a speedster, running a 4.42 as a sophomore, and will likely be put in the slot position. Nabers is a precise route-runner with the ability to win a jump ball despite being just 6 feet.
They are joined by another 3-star in Jacobi Moore (Gulport, Miss., No. 90 WR), who has both the size at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and speed — he also runs track — to be extremely dangerous.
Class weakness: Defensive line
Unusual for a Mississippi State recruiting class, this one is lacking on quality guys defensively in the trenches. In fact, the Bulldogs currently only have 2 defensive ends — 3-star weak-side defensive end Tre’von Marshall (Locust Grove, Ga.) and UCF transfer Randy Charlton, a 3-star strong-side defensive end — committed.
This fails in comparison to last year’s class, when the former coaching staff signed 5 defensive ends/tackles.
Grading the QB class
Other than Robertson, State also has a commitment from 3-star pro-style quarterback Daniel Greek (Argyle, Texas) and Sam Houston State transfer Jack Kristofek.
Robertson and Kristofek will arrive on campus ready to compete for the starting job in Leach’s offense, but standing in their way will be Will Rogers, who took over the job as a true freshman this season. While Rogers hasn’t been lights out, he will have the advantage going into the spring and fall merely by having experience in the system. Don’t expect him to be handed the keys to the offense without a fight, though.
Did they close the borders?
It is predicted that Leach and his staff will keep 8 of the top 20 players from leaving the Magnolia State, yet the top 3 are committed to LSU, Alabama and Oregon, respectively. They did beat out rival Ole Miss and Lane Kiffin with 4 kids in the top 10, while the Rebels signed just 2.
As the 2 1st-year coaches get to learn the state better, these recruiting battles will continue to heat up.
Much as expected, the talent on offense is going to start to arrive in Starkville as Leach gets his system put in place and the results start getting better. Signing 1 of the top pro-style quarterbacks in the nation along with a trio of talented receivers is a good start. Shore up the defensive front and this class could turn out special.