Pre-Signing Day Edition Dawghouse

The question came from a surprising source. The member of Mississippi State’s support staff was scanning an advance list of projected Wednesday signees. Out of the blue (or Maroon and White if you prefer), he asked aloud “Why is this class rated so high?”

My surprise was because the fellow asking rarely shows any interest in recruiting until Mississippi State announces who actually signed. He has that luxury. To some extent so do I, not least because as a former media relations staffer (twice), Bulldog Club member, donor to the University itself on my meager scale, I’m way beyond the line of those allowed to talk to prospects. By any NCAA interpretation I’m a booster, plain and simple.

Fortunately for all of us, GP/DB is more than adequately staffed for providing you subscribers with as much recruiting material as can be safely consumed. When Steve Robertson risked pulling up the family stakes and moving to Bulldog Country at last, the coverage-game here leaped to a new level. If you think the past dozen months have produced quality content, watch out for what is coming now that Steve is much closer to the action, able to hit all corners of the state and for that matter bordering regions more routinely, and not make ten-hour round trips to cover campus camps and combines and the like.

But back to the questioner’s query. I came up with a quick response, all he really wanted. When he left though, despite working on a basketball advance at the time, the question stuck. I believe I have some sort of better answer now, in two parts.

The first, relates to the source of the question itself. My friend’s comment came about as he did not recognize many of the names on that preliminary and unofficial list. Now as noted, he isn’t a Crootin’ fan who can recite entire lists of two-star linebacker prospects from between Highways 82 and 84! But he reads the sports pages, keeps up with high school football, is aware of the better-known players out there.

So, as none of those names ring five-star bells with him, he had the honest question. And, odd as it will sound at first to you, I think the very question is a heckuva commentary on the expected seventh signing class by Coach Dan Mullen and staff.

This projected class does not ‘jump out’ with superstars for an exciting reason: it is a consistently strong collection of players and athletes all the way through. Wait, stay with me here. I mean that every individual is a worthwhile SEC-program prospect, from highest- to lowest-rated by recruiting services. Because of that, few of the individuals truly stand out from the crowd…which is a compliment to the crowd!

Yes, there are ‘best’ prospects in the group, always will be. My point though is the best are not so very much better than the rest, and that is a great thing for Bulldog football future. Plus, even the prospects who rank ‘lowest’ in this group aren’t at all ‘low ranking’ recruits. Not at all. Nothing like what we who’ve been involved with the program for very long (in my own case very, very long) have always accepted as inevitable, that each class would have some throw-ins or reaches or gambles just to get bodies and numbers.

Uh-uh. Not this year. If you take the rating system seriously, and most reading this do bless y’all, Mullen isn’t handing out a scholarship to anyone will less than three stars by his name. Now we could rant for a while about what the star system really means or not, but you already know the theme. I will say as an aside that, I kinda like being part of an organization that with gritted teeth holds to strict guidelines of how many kids around the country can get five stars, then four, and so on. OK, so maybe we might gain a few more subscriptions if we tossed out stars like Mardis Gras doubloons to inflate rankings and please the public. It’s not my call anyway.

Ironically though, this star system leads to my own second point about this class’s rising ranking. Way, way, way back in the day when the first recruiting ‘analysts’ were getting going, one of them wrote for a piece in Sports Illustrated this bluntly honest comment. He was discussing how he’d ranked his top ten teams, and in it had a line about Notre Dame’s class. He said, and I paraphrase, “any prospect recruited by Notre Dame is a top prospect.”

That was in the much more innocent 1980s understand. But what he said was true, if not correct in truly rating a player. If a young man was being actively recruited by Notre Dame, or Southern Cal or Ohio State or Texas or you get the idea, analysts automatically regarded them as better prospects than those without offers from the same schools. Sure, it grated on the rest of us to hear it…but we knew it had a measure of truth AT THE TIME.

Funny thing though. The proliferation of ratings services, which has been good and bad for all sorts of obvious reasons, has weirdly brought a bit more…oh, heck, let’s call it honesty? to the ranking process. Maybe clarity is a better word. Is there still a bit of bias towards prospects whose offers list reads like the Associated Press top ten? Sure, because those programs didn’t get where they are by recruiting stiffs!

By that same token, I am beginning to think the bias we Bulldogs have always bashed might now be turning a bit in our direction. No, seriously.

I am going to get Steve’s take on this in today’s video segment. But I’ve a notion that after seasons of sustained success on the field, doing it with classes the outside analysts ranked moderately at the time, Mississippi State is receiving increased respect for recruiting. For recognizing athletes the OA’s know little of or missed entirely, turning them into not just SEC winners but NFL draft picks. Oh, and winning a lot of football games.

Yes, absolutely, Mullen’s frequent comment about running a development program is correct. Look at the results. the same time analysts recognize after-the-fact that those were pretty darned good recruits in the first place, just not ranked accordingly with their abilities. I don’t say this to criticize by the way. Watching Steve’s work reminds that for all the purported information available today the really professional analysts just can’t see everyone, much less really evaluate most.

What I am saying here is that after seeing what Mullen and MSU have achieved with supposedly lesser classes, the ratings folk appear to regard an offer from State as reason to rate that kid higher. Maybe not with the same stature as an offer from the traditional favorites, but hey, Bulldog football is the first team after 2014’s top ten in the real rankings. State didn’t get there by playing stiffs, either.

So, as the man asked originally, why is the projected 2015 recruiting class ranked so highly? Simple. Mississippi State recruits good football players and wins football games with them.

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