If you are looking for a Kentucky/Tennessee (2014) or Ole Miss (2013) type of storyline in the Southeastern Conference during the 2015 cycle, you may want to look no further than Starkville, Miss.
Granted we are less than three weeks into 2015, but Mississippi State currently has the No. 6 recruiting class in the country and the Bulldogs are trending for several additional top prospects.
Six of the Bulldogs nine commits are in-state high school prospects- including Yazoo City defensive end Timothy Washington and Louisville receiver Dontea Jones, two of the better Magnolia State prospects in 2015.
Mississippi State also went over to east Georgia and landed talented running back Kentavious Thomas from Baldwin High in Milledgeville. Thomas is one of several big-time running back prospects in the Peach State this cycle and is an excellent way to follow up landing four-star Aeris Williams at the position in 2014.
An impressive class so far for sure, but if you look down the road a bit, this could be a landmark haul for Dan Mullen and staff when you consider the early trending among Mississippi's best prospects.
Athlete Malik Dear (Jackson, Miss./Murrah) was at junior day in Starkville this past weekend, named Mississippi State his leader (something that isn't new) and is predicted at 80 percent to the Bulldogs by 247Sports Crystal Ball, which measures recruiting prediction trends of analysts accross the country. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound Dear told Paul Jones of 247Sports that it's “just about the way Mississippi State makes me feel”- signifying the high comfort level he has at State. Dear also is a versatile athlete that fits in well to the Bulldogs' offensive scheme.
Safety Jamal Peters (Bassfield, Miss.) is a 6-foot-3 striker at the position and one of the best nationally. Mississippi State is battling Ole Miss, Alabama, LSU and others for his services, but currently is leading the way on Crystal Ball at 44 percent.
Offensive guard Javon Patterson (Petal, Miss.) is the No. 2 prospect at his position nationally according to 247Sports Composite rankings. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder told Jones after visiting Mississippi State for junior day that the Bulldogs have a “good chance” and that he likely will head to an SEC program. Right now, Ole Miss is out in front on Crystal Ball predictions at 70 percent, but Mississippi State is in the mix.
Four-star defensive tackle Fletcher Adams (Brandon, Miss.) is the No. 17 prospect at his position nationally, is a lean to MSU and is a 91 percent pick on Crystal Ball for the Bulldogs.
Those previously mentioned are four of the top five in Mississippi for 2015. The fifth, linebacker Leo Lewis (Brookhaven, Miss.) is expected to leave the state, but the Bulldogs are in the mix.
Granted, rankings will change and the various recruitments of each prospect will ebb and flow, but even if the Bulldogs end up with three of the top five in-state, it really gives this class some teeth.
Mississippi State under Mullen is sort of an undervalued story nationally. The Bulldogs have been to four straight bowl games under the former Florida assistant and has done an excellent job recruiting in-state.
In large part, the credit on the recruiting trail can be given to recruiting coordinator Tony Hughes, who is a Mississippi native who has spent the majority of his nearly 20-year collegiate coaching career working in the state and knows the ins-and-outs of working both the high school and junior college ranks. He also the recruiter-of-record for Patterson, Peters and Lewis. If Hughes, Mullen and staff can wrap up some of the talent they are in good shape for right now, this could be the finest work yet by the staff in Starkville.