Are Players Getting Better Under Dan Mullen?


Recruiting can be a tricky game. You never know if a certain player has been mis-evaluated or under-evaluated. By the same token, a blue chip prospect could have off-the-field issues or turn out to be a complete bust. But for the most part, getting a lot of stars to sign in February generally means you’ll have success when they hit the field.

The sign of a good coach is that he makes the players he recruits better once they get on campus. At Mississippi State, this has to happen to compete at a high level as it is more difficult to attract 4 and 5 star athletes, and the need for development is especially high.

Mullen’s first class, 2009, has gone through four years in Starkville now…many of them will graduate this year. Below I’m going to list the recruits in the ’09 class, their stars according to, and then take a stab at what they actually turned out to be.

Brandon Heavens (3 stars) – I kind of though Heavens had the talent to get on the field more, and was justified in the 3 stars, but based on the production he had I have to go with 2 stars.

Ricco Sanders (3 stars) – He got into some trouble early in the year, but barely saw the light of day. 2 stars.

Darius Slay (2 stars) – Slay signed but had to go Juco his freshman and sophomore seasons, but he has turned out to be a good player in maroon once he got here. 4 stars.

LaDarius Perkins (3 stars) – Perk was the man this year, and he’s definitely worthy of those three stars, you could probably make an argument for 4…I’ll give it to him, 4 stars.

Chad Bumphis (4 stars) – Bump came in with a lot of expectations and he performed his first two years. He looked like a bust in his junior year, but really showed up and earned those stars in 2012. 4 stars.

Pernell McPhee (4 stars) – He was a juco transfer and is now playing with the Baltimore Ravens. Definitely worth the 4 stars.

Leon Berry (3 stars) – Another juco transfer, he had some moments, more as a kick returner than a WR. 3 stars.

Sean Brauchle (3 stars) – As juco transfer kicker, he split time him Derek DePasquale, but got less time. 2 stars.

Heath Hutchins (3 stars) – Juco transfer punter. He did the punting for two years but was unable to reach the 43/44 yard average both years. 2 stars.

Gabe Jackson (3 stars) – Gabe has turned out to be a great lineman. I’d say he’s already surpassed the three stars to a 4, arguably a 5. If he does come back for his senior season, he will probably reach that. 4 stars.

Chris White (4 stars) – Another juco, came in a played well, winning the Conerly Trophy his senior year…now playing with the Buffalo Bills. 4 stars.

Deontae Skinner (3 stars) – Deontae has come on the last two years and played really well. He is for sure equaled his recruiting ranking, and I think he has a chance to improve even more. 3 stars. 

Josh Boyd (4 stars) – He really started off strong and was a starter all four years. I’m not sure he really continued to get better and better, and I wonder how much of his success could be attributed to having Fletcher Cox next to him his first 3 years. 3 stars.

Nickoe Whitley (3 stars) – If you asked me after last year I’d say he was a 4 star, but he didn’t have the same effects this year, especially in coverage…but perhaps that had to due with his injury. 3 stars.

Fletcher Cox (4 stars) – 12th pick overall in the 2012 NFL draft, 5 stars.

Johnthan Banks (3 stars) – Tied for the all-time lead in interceptions at MSU, Jim Thorpe Award winner, 5 stars.

Chris Smith (3 stars) – Chris had a solid career, I wish he had redshirted in ’09 instead of the 22 yards he had, 3 stars.

Tyler Russell (4 stars) – There were some questions about whether Tyler could live up to the expectations, but I think he has. 4 stars.

Cameron Lawrence (3 stars) – Very solid career in Starkville, two-time leading tackler for MSU. 4 stars.

Conclusion: I came up with five players who did not live up to their rating, but two of them were kickers, and some would certainly argue with my Josh Boyd rating. Eight players have stayed the same. Six players have exceeded their star rating.

Overall, I think the coaching staff has done well with player development. The key is to steadily keep improving and having winning seasons. If that happens, State should be able to land some blue chip recruits and be in a position to compete at an even higher level.