Why the 2014 Class May Be Better than You Think

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I’m not going to blow smoke up your you know what and say this class is the centerpiece to future championships. But I’m also going to ask you to look further than just the recruiting rankings (38th-42nd ish) and see where this class fits into what MSU is trying to accomplish.

1.0 – We need to look at how they impact the next team: 2014. This is probably the best opportunity MSU has had to reach that next level (10 wins/compete for the West) since Dan Mullen has been here, and really since 2000/01….so addressing any needs with this class is key.

MSU only loses four players who played significant roles and could be tough to replace:

  1. Gabe Jackson, LG
  2. Charles Siddoway, RT
  3. Denico Autry, DE
  4. Nickoe Whitley, FS

Tyler Russell, LaDarius Perkins and Deontae Skinner were all injured at times or shared significant time with backups. They will not be too hard to replace their production. With Gabe Jackson, we  could replace him with Ben Beckwith or Jamaal Clayborn. Beckwith started 12 games last year and Clayborn is being talked about as the next Gabe Jackson-type Guard. There’s no way either will be as good as Gabe, but I don’t think there will be such a huge drop off that we’re in trouble.  Nickoe Whitley leaves but Justin Cox moves to safety plus Jay Hughes and Dee Arrington (if he doesn’t move to LB) return from injury. Denico Autry’s position at DE could be easily filled by Chris Jones. But will he stay at DT? I’m leaning towards yes – with his 300 pound beast of a body he’s a Fletcher Cox type in the middle. So can A.J. Jefferson take over for Denico…maybe Ryan Brown or Torrey Dale? If Jones moves to DE that opens up some spots DT. P.J. Jones and Kaleb Eulls plus some others could easily hold the fort down for a year. At FS, LG and DE I’m not too worried.

Charles Siddoway leaves the RT position barren. Damien Robinson is still out there somewhere but at this point I don’t think he can be counted on. Justin Malone comes back from injury but odds are he stays at RG. Justin Senior is a potential candidate as well, but this is where Joquell Johnson comes in.  As a juco transfer, if he can fill the role that Siddoway did as a juco by coming in and starting – holding his own, then that will be a huge asset. If not, it will be a huge liability.

2.0 – Who could come in and produce this year (but don’t have to)? This is the fun part, because any production from these guys is gravy.

  1. Darrian Hutcherson – if he can become a legit red zone weapon at 6′-7″ it could be the difference between winning and losing some big games.
  2. Jamoral Graham – to be blunt honest I don’t think Brandon Holloway has what it takes to become the next threat at the slot for State. I’d rather see his used on misdirection plays out of the backfield, or just every now and then to dark down field and see if he can catch a bomb. Graham or Donald Gray (juco coming in class of 2015) will be battling it out to replace Jameon Lewis in 2015. For that reason, and his immense talent I think Graham sees the field this fall.
  3. Logan Cooke – here’s another Devon Bell type. He specializes in punting and kickoffs but not FGs. Well, we need someone who can make FGs. I think Bell can if he just gets his mind right, but Cooke may be able to as well. It should breed a healthy competition.
  4. Aeries Williams – I don’t think he’s getting redshirted. Even with three really good tailbacks in front of him he’s a beast and will see the field. I hope he gets used more than Shumpert did this year. The power running game we could have with Dak, JRob, Shump and Aeries has me giddy.

3.0 – The elite talent. Here are the guys you can expect to start 2-3 years at MSU.

  • Jamoral Graham
  • Aeries Williams
  • Gerri Green – Coach Mullen said Green is the best player in this class. I have a feeling he may have been a 5-star if he had not been injured his senior year. He’s been compared to K.J. Wright and Benardrick McKinney. I have to assume McKinney is gone after 2014 so Green may be poised to take over in 2015. I have a feeling he will be redshirted but that may not be the case at all. He could jump up into that 2014 impact group, but either way he’s going to be a great Dawg.
  • Jesse Jackson – the great news is MSU has stock-piled solid WRs, so we can afford to redshirt guys who are as talented as Jackson….but that doesn’t mean we will. Bear Wilson and Fred Ross found their way on the field in 2013 and Jackson may do the same. He’s good.
  • Elijah Staley – Mullen said the coaching staff had Staley at a 5-star on their board. I can believe it. I’ve seen him play and he’s got the look of Cam Newton too him. I don’t think he’s that fast, but he’s mobile with a great arm. He’s already developing as a leader and if he can continue to grow he’ll be a perfect fit to replace Dak Prescott in 2016.

4.0 – The glue. Guys who don’t pop off the page but who you need to keep things going. Solid players.

  • Nick Fitzgerald – we saw what happened in 2013 with Prescott and Russell going down. While I think Staley’s long term ceiling is higher, the fact that Fitz has been on campus for nearly two months now, will have bowl practice and spring practice under his belt, I think he will be a prime candidate for 3rd string in 2014. Hopefully it won’t come to that though. Don’t count Nick out – he appears motivated and he’s got talent. He’ll battle Staley every step of the way, and I believe the QB competition between them will only benefit their development.
  • Cory Thomas – with the loss of Quay Evans, and the graduation of Kaleb Eulls, Curtis Virges and P.J. Jones there will be a lot of thinning at DT after 2014. Thomas is a guy who may see the field earlier than most 3-stars would, and he’s a solid player with an impressive offer sheet.
  • Brandon Bryant – here’s my sleeper pick for this class. I really like his talent and I think he’ll be a staple in the MSU secondary within a couple of years.
  • Deshon Cooper – LB who will undoubtedly redshirt and keep building towards playing down the road. He’s got a big upside as athletic as he is and he’ll fit right into the Will-LB position for State.

5.0 – The rest. There are a number of two and three star players that fill out of the bottom of this class. But that doesn’t mean they can’t end up being high impact guys like the ones we’re expecting above. Taveze Calhoun, Benardrick McKinney, Blaine Claussell, Dillon Day, the list goes on of guys who were undervalued as low as 2-stars in recruiting but have shown they were much better once they got to State under the guidance of our coaching staff.  Then again, they may all amount to just special teams players, it’s hard to know.

This class isn’t spectacular. As excited as I get watching the highlights of some of these guys, when you look around the SEC everyone has them, and most have more of them. So we can’t just have 5-10 high impact guys per class and hope to compete, it’s gotta be more like 10-15 each class. This group may end up being that way, and that’s why it’s silly to judge at this point.

The thing this class has is enough players to fill holes and maintain status quo. If they can assimilate into the 2014 team as they want to we can set up for a great year. And peering into the future we look to have some top performers who signed in 2014.