Sleepers and Busts – A Look Back at Miss. State Recruiting


We are a week away from National Signing Day and that means the excitement will continue to build around recruiting and all that it has to offer.  Mississippi State, along with every other school in the country will celebrate and tell you how great their classes are, who your future stars on Saturday will be and break your favorite class down seven ways from Sunday.

For Mississippi State, the Bulldogs look well on their way to having a top-20 class and maybe a little higher and on paper that looks great; but we are still about two years away from really knowing what the Bulldogs have in this class.

Today we take a look back over the years since recruiting rankings have been fluid and look at some of the busts and sleepers that the Bulldogs have had.  Fill free to chime in on those we may have missed.  Disclaimer for the sensitive: Bust doesn’t mean we are making fun of a player, it means for whatever reason, Player-X didn’t pan out in college.

2001 Bust – Clarence McDougal (S) – 4-Star Prospect:

Coming off the heels of one of the biggest runs in MSU history, when talking about recruiting and players and winning – McDougal was supposed to be an impact player at safety for the Bulldogs immediately, but two back to back knee injuries cut his career way short.

McDougal did get his degree and took his talents into the coaching profession.

2002 Bust – Markell McKinley (SDE) – 4-Star Prospect:

Rated by some as the number-7 overall defensive end in 2002, McKinley got to Starkville then flat out disappeared.  Sports has McKinley ending his college career with one, check that ONE tackle.  No wonder I don’t remember anything about this guy.

2002 Bust – Nick Turner (RB) – 4 Star Prospect:

Everyone felt Turner would be the one – two punch with Jerious Norwood and oh what a lovely punch it would have been.  We know about the elustrious career Norwood had but Turner?  Well after 879-total yards and seven touchdowns, Turner decided to head to a night club with fake 100-dollar bills  and of course that didn’t end well.  Turner was eventually released from the MSU Team after a string of run-ins and rules violations.

2002 Sleeper – Kevin Dockery (CB) – 2-Star Prospect:

Kevin Dockery left Hernando, MS as a two-star prospect that many didn’t even think about in 2002 and all he did was start the majority of his time in Starkville.  He then played multiple years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl in 2007 with the New York Giants.  Dockery is a text book example of guys that rise from the ashes and become super stars.

2004 Sleeper – Titus Brown (ILB) – 2-Star Prospect:

Brown was another 2-star athlete that had offers from Alabama A&M and Mississippi State.  Brown went on to register 18.5-sacks during his Bulldog career, which ranks seventh on the all-time list for Mississippi State.  Brown signed a free agent contract with the Dolphins out of college and went on to spend time with the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos as well.

 2005 Bust – Louis Ellis (DT) – 4-Star Prospect:

Ellis who is originally from Jackson, MS signed with Miss. State, but the problem is he never made it to campus.  Grades were an issue for Ellis and he ended up playing in Division II after two seasons at Hinds Community College, winning CIAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 and ’08, compiling 129 tackles (led his team in ’08 with 64), 43 tackles for loss and 16 sacks.

He was one the Bulldogs let get away.

2006 Bust – Chasman Davis (OLB) – 4-Star Prospect:

Davis, much like McDougal and Ellis, had his share of issues with grades and an injury.  He had his scholarship pulled at Mississippi State, but landed on his feet later and you can read about that right here.

2006 Sleeper – Kyle Love (DT) – 2-Star Prospect:

Love is another player that came to MSU from the state of Georgia, showed out during his time as a Bulldog and ended up in the NFL.  Love currently plays for the Carolina Panthers, but has spent time with the Jacksonvill Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots.

2009 Sleeper – Jonathan Banks (DB) – 2 Star Prospect:

Banks has become the poster child of what you can become under Dan Mullen and his staff at Mississippi State.  Banks was an instant success in Starkville, grabbing the hearts of many Bulldog fans and become a favorite during his time as a Bulldog.

Banks went on to win several collegiate awards and now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


There are plenty of others you could talk about over the years, of guys that just didn’t pan out and guys who flew under the radar and this is the case for every school across the country; which is what makes college football recruiting even that much more of an inexact science.

But, my biggest “say what” moment in Maroon has to be Lance Long.  Long, who transferred to Mississippi State from Toledo after the 2003 season was thought to be someone that then head coach Sylvester Croom could use in the passing game.  But, Long –  like many others during the Croom years was mismanaged as a player and for his three years in Starkville, Long caught a whopping 46-passes for 321-yards and one touchdown.

Many like myself thought Long just either wasn’t good enough or it could have been Croom’s system that he was running but at the time – we just didn’t know.

Not until Long ended up signing a free agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals.  That’s right – the Cardinals and I remember vividly just hearing the name on Sports Center and thinking ” is this the same Long? Surely…)  Yes it was and I was dumbfounded, especially after Long spent several years in the league with the likes of the Cardinals, Lions and 49er’s, among st others and his NFL stats were better than his collegiate ones.

That moment validated two things for me.  One, it let me know for sure Sylvester Croom should have never, ever been the head coach at Mississippi State and two, it showed me just how unpredictable college football recruiting can be.