One of the knocks on Dan Mullen at Mississippi State since he has been the head coach of the bulldogs is well - he just can't recruit. He wins with smoke and mirrors. He wins with Sly Crooms recruits. That's what it is because we all know in his five years, Croom dominated the SEC West.
After back to back bowl game championships and a total of seventeen wins in the last two seasons, Mullen proved that he and his staff can not just win but close the deal when it comes to recruiting.
Now lets pump the breaks first on recruiting. It gets way over blown and out of hand on most occasions. If you are depending on last weeks class to win next year then you are in trouble - big-time. If you don't believe me see Ole Miss last year.
But, nevertheless on paper, Mullen looks like he and his staff more than met team needs and even got instant contributors. Rivals.com ranked the dawgs the 30th best group in the country while Scout.com ranked the dawgs 17th in their final rankings of 2012.
When you take a first glance at this years class you will instantly see that Mullen looks at LSU and Alabama and says - yep, defensive line is where its at.
With Fletcher Cox destined for NFL waters, the dawgs reeled in what Scout.com calls the best defensive line combination in the country.
It all begins and ends with Juco All American Denico Autry. The 6-5 250 lb defensive end is a beast of a man and will give the dawgs something they didn't have last year. A legitimate SEC rush end.
Along with Autry is defensive tackle Quay Evans. The senior fromMorton,MS was high on every SEC schools wish list and along with Autry, both are already in school and will partake in spring drills.
The class is also sprinkled with three and four stars such as DE A.J Jefferson (McComb,MS), DT Jordan Washington (Suwanee,GA), DT Nick James (Long Beach,MS), DE Ryan Brown (Marrero,LA), DE Torrey Bell (River Ridge,LA) and DT Nelson Adams (Brandon,MS).
That's an eight count on the defensive line which as we know is key in the SEC. Obviously all those guys won't play this year but I expect several to contribute early and often.
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, the dawgs also garnered two linebackers in Richie Brown (Long Beach,MS) and Beniquesz Brown (Florence,AL) - both four stars and two that could see some reps early next fall.
Finally as you move to the secondary you do not need to look far before finding four star corner Will Redmond (Memphis,TN). The dawgs fought off a late Ohio State push and constant pressure to sign with Tennessee to eventually land what Mullen has called a day one contributor. Redmond shined on both sides of the ball in high school but will primarily return kicks and play corner in an already deep secondary.
Offensively the dawgs added depth across the offensive line in OT Charles Siddoway (Oroville,CA), OG Dylan Holley (Perkinston,MS) and others to an area that needed an upgrade.
Many blamed Mullen's play calling or lack of skill player production for this past falls offensive struggles but if you really watched STATE football you knew the offensive line just was not what it was supposed to be. Injuries, shuffled roster spots and more caused a lack of production from this unit. Mullen did all he could in this class to get help and build depth.
The one area that state did not sign a slew of players was on the wide receiver or running backs positions. Some of this was due to an already full roster at those spots and they just missed on some players.
However, I expect RB/WR Brandon Holloway (Tampa,FL), and RB Xavier Grindle (Columbia,MS) to have a chance to see early snaps via special teams.
So how do I see this class? Way to early to tell. You have to get them to campus now, make sure they stay eligible, don't miss mama to much and learn the play book while staying out of the bars or ending up behind bars.
Ask me in three years and I will tell you, but from ten thousand feet it looks like Mullen is well on his way to moving further up the food chain in the rugged SEC and those smoke and mirrors never hurt either.