Dan Mullen has struggled to bring in program defining recruiting classes while Ben Howland brought a program defining recruiting class in with his very first one.
While much of the focus on Mississippi State football in 2015 was on the offensive line and its struggles, the root of the problem goes back to the same problem Dan Mullen has had in his tenure at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs simply do not recruit at the same level as the upper tier of the SEC.
Many Bulldog fans have accepted the fact Dan Mullen will not bring in the same type of recruits as Alabama, LSU, and even Ole Miss with the way the Rebels have recruited since Hugh Freeze took over. We’ve accepted it because we have always been told Starkville is such a deterrent to big time recruits we should be thankful for whichever ones who choose to come to Mississippi State.
The 2015 class gave many Bulldog fans hope this might be changing. It was rated 18th in the country after a series of recruiting classes that rated in the mid 20s and 30s. But as of this writing, the Bulldogs sit at 43rd in the country for 2016 according to 247 Sports.
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Considering the fact Mississippi State just won their 19th game in two years, Dan Mullen and his staff have done a great job developing these players into better athletes than when they arrived. And since recruiting to Starkville isn’t supposed to be possible, Mullen has done a really good job with what he has to work with.
But is the idea that blue chip recruits won’t seriously consider coming to Mississippi State completely valid? Ben Howland has punched many holes in this theory since his arrival in 2015.
Howland made a huge splash when he took over the Mississippi State basketball team. In a month’s time, Ben Howland went from not having recruited a single player for two seasons, to landing a top ten prospect in Malik Newman. He followed that up this past early signing period by signing a recruiting class that is ranked 6th in the country. This class includes five players who are consensus four star players by all of the recruiting sites, and one player, Mario Kegler, who is listed as a five star by some recruiting services.
Howland knows how to recruit. And if the perceived Starkville handicap is in affect, why isn’t it hampering Howland and his staff in the same manner that it seems to affect Dan Mullen and his coaching staff?
Dan Mullen can likely lead Mississippi State to seven or eight win regular seasons recruiting and developing players the way he currently does. He can even have a special season like 2014 where things all come together and Mississippi State outperforms those who have recruited better than he has around him. And Mississippi State fans will be, and should be quite frankly, happy with that level of success. The moment eight or nine wins makes us want to run Mullen out of town is the day we might see our program fall apart.
Having said that, there isn’t any reason Mississippi State fans shouldn’t expect more from Dan Mullen and his staff on the recruiting trail. Howland has shown it can be done. And in the SEC West, players want to play among the best. It’s time for Mullen to step up his game and bring in some players that are ready to compete the moment they arrive on campus. If he doesn’t know how, maybe Ben Howland can teach him.