If you are going to win football games, you have to win the recruiting game. But how do you win it? Many will tell you that Alabama has won the recruiting national championship the past few seasons because they have been ranked at the top of the 247sports composite index during that time. So does that mean no one else has a chance?
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Of course not, and that is why people will debate the relevance of recruiting rankings until the end of time. The advent of recruiting services with their subscription based web sites has driven recruiting to a new level with pundits from across the country weighing in and putting every recruit under the microscope. A byproduct of this is National Signing Day is celebrated across the country by many fans, especially for those who find themselves at the top of these rankings.
So what is Mississippi State doing and how are we winning recruiting? Here is how the Bulldogs have done according to 247sports.com:
- 2009: 20th Nationally and 8th in the SEC
- 2010: 33rd Nationally and 10th in the SEC
- 2011: 34th Nationally and 10th in the SEC
- 2012: 22nd Nationally and 9th in the SEC
- 2013: 25th Nationally and 10th in the SEC
- 2014: 35th Nationally and 12th in the SEC
So the Bulldogs would appear to be getting the doors blown off of them when it comes to recruiting. Their average under Mullen is just over 28th nationally and right at 10th in the SEC. According to the recruiting rankings, our best bet is to just hope for bowl eligibility.
The problem with being a disciple of only recruiting rankings is that it flies in the face of what Mississippi State accomplished in 2014. The players who signed in 2010 that were redshirted and the true seniors and redshirt juniors of the 2011 class were the backbone of a team that went to the Orange Bowl and was ranked 12th in the final AP poll.
As much as the early off season talk has been about Mississippi State taking a step back to where they normally finish, Dan Mullen just took a crop of players that many people didn’t want on their team in the SEC and turned them into one of the best teams in the SEC. The only two teams to finish higher than the Bulldogs in the final rankings were Alabama and Georgia. He still has some fifth year seniors on the roster from that overachieving 2011 class and the 2012 class, his highest rated, is about to be juniors or redshirt sophomores. The most talented players Dan Mullen has ever signed are about to be the primary contributors for Mississippi State. If he can do what he did in 2014 with players that are rated in the 30s, we can only dream of the heights he can take players rated in the 20s.
Dan Mullen has a smaller margin for error with the recruiting classes he signs. When a four or five star player doesn’t pan out at Alabama, they replace them with another. Mullen has to get every drop of potential out of his players. He demonstrated that he can do it as well as anyone in the country in 2014. With a class that is currently ranked 19th, Mullen is trying to bring even more talent to Starkville. Mullen is demonstrating that the real way to win at recruiting is to win the games in in September, October and November with the players you sign in February.