Mullen closing in on top 25 class

mullenSTARKVILLE — Told Thursday of his team’s national top 25 showings in a pair of Web sites’ respective recruiting rankings, Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen responded with the optimism to which MSU fans are growing accustomed.

“I guess (that’s) good,” Mullen said. “(But) I want to be in the top 10. The top five.”

Though Mullen certainly isn’t taking anything for granted, the Bulldogs head toward the Feb. 4 signing day with close to as lofty a spot in the national rankings as they’ve ever enjoyed – for what those rankings are worth.

Scout.com ranks MSU No. 18, immediately ahead of Arkansas, Florida State, Tennessee and Notre Dame.

Rivals.com ranks MSU No. 22. Penn State and Nebraska follow immediately behind.

The Web sites compute their rankings by awarding stars, on a five-star scale, to individual recruits. Points are awarded based on the stars each school collects.

Rivals and Scout started ranking recruiting classes by team in 2002. State hasn’t ranked this high since 2003. That year, Rivals.com ranked Jackie Sherrill’s class No. 9 in the nation; Scout.com ranked it No. 20.

In between, Sylvester Croom’s classes failed to reach the top 25 in any season. Croom’s first class, in 2004, was ranked No. 60 by Scout and No. 62 by Rivals. That’s when MSU was in its deepest throes of NCAA sanctions for recruiting violations committed while Sherrill was the coach.

“It’s a good year for Mississippi State football, because normally, it would be a class that would finish in the 30s and the 40s,” said Allen Wallace, national recruiting editor of Scout.com. “And sometimes, they don’t finish in the top 50.”

Wallace credits the work Croom started, but thinks State found a recruiting coup in Mullen.

“I’m not surprised,” Wallace said. “I don’t see why a lot of people would be. This is a guy that’s one of the most bright, up-and-coming minds in the game. And recruiting is a young man’s sport.”

So back to Mullen, the 36-year-old in his first head coaching job, who spoke to a reporter via cell phone Thursday because he was, well, between trips to high schools.

Mullen knows exactly how many days are left until signing day, and is quick to remind anyone that there’s much work to be done. “A lot can happen in 13 days,” Mullen said.

“I can tell you this: Myself and our staff are working really hard at it,” he said. “We have a lot of work left to get there.”

Mullen isn’t one to celebrate, not until Feb. 4. He’s quick to remind anyone of that. With 23 commitments, Mullen has precious space left in his class. Schools are usually limited to enrolling 25 new scholarship players each fall, but schools often sign more than that, anticipating some will not qualify academically for enrollment. “We might go a little bit over,” Mullen said.

State’s focus recently seems to be at wide receiver and cornerback. Last week’s heralded commitments of Louisville athlete Dennis Thames and Tupelo wide receiver Chad Bumphis were part of that effort – and a large reason why MSU’s rankings on the Web sites vaulted as high as they did.

A month and a half ago, keeping that class together was a real question mark. A couple of players still decommitted, but State was able to keep commitments from Meridian quarterback Tyler Russell, easily its most valuable offensive prospect, and Itawamba Community College defensive end Pernell McPhee, arguably its most valuable defensive prospect.

Wallace, the recruiting analyst, downplayed how hard of a salesmanship job new coaches usually have when coming into a school. He thinks “95 percent” of the former commitments remain solid to the school.

“Why shouldn’t I like it more than ever now?” said Wallace, speaking as a prospect. “They’re serious about the program now, they’re not standing still.”

Miss. State commitment list

Prospects who have given non-binding, oral commitments:

Johnthan Banks, S (East Webster HS)

Josh Boyd, DL (Philadelphia HS)

Chad Bumphis, WR (Tupelo HS)

Montrell Conner, RB (Ouachita Parish HS, Monroe, La.)

Fletcher Cox, DL (Yazoo City HS)

Gabriel Jackson, OL (Amite County HS)

Jonathan McKenzie, TE (Starkville Academy)

LaDarius Perkins, RB (Greenville St. Joseph HS)

Tyler Russell, QB (Meridian HS)

William Shumpert, FB (Itawamba Agricultural HS)

Deontae Skinner, LB (Noxubee County HS)

Darius Slay, RB (Brunswick (Ga.) HS)

Chris Smith, WR (Meridian HS)

Dennis Thames, ATH (Louisville HS)

Nickoe Whitley, S (Provine HS)

Prospects who have already signed/enrolled:

Leon Berry, WR (East Mississippi CC)

Sean Brauchle, PK (Gulf Coast CC)

Heath Hutchins, P (Itawamba CC)

Maurice Langston, WR (East Central CC)

Cameron Lawrence, S (Magnolia Heights School, Senatobia)

Pernell McPhee, DE (Itawamba CC)

Sam Watts, OL (Salem HS, Conyers, Ga.)

Chris White, LB (Gulf Coast CC)

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4 Responses to “Mullen closing in on top 25 class”

  1. bigwoolymammoth Says:

    he might be a super recruiter….but you got to give credit where credit is due. croom put this class together…..mullen just kept it from falling apart, which he should be commended for.

  2. bigdraws Says:

    Yep. Croom finally got off his lazy tookus and recruited a little. Guess he was trying to save his job. Too late.

  3. bigwoolymammoth Says:

    didnt realize they only had 3 recruits from outside the state……i mean thats locking down the state and all, but i still find that strange.

  4. bigdraws Says:

    Didn’t realize that either.

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