Now into the season, the Bulldogs have a pretty good idea of what they have for this year and next. As some players begin to show the potential to be starters, others develop at a different rate. Dan Mullen reports that the task of projecting future Bulldog teams is something that is constantly a consideration.
"You're always looking at the full roster and to develop the roster," Mullen shared. "You're looking at what players are out there and who we can get. We don't draft, so you're looking at the best available players and how they fit, do they fit and if they fit our needs?
"I think your constantly managing where you're at. You're working with where the roster is now, then we'll put next year's roster on the board and see where there are deficiencies. Then you put the following year's roster up and see where we have deficiencies."
Addressing those needs requires some ability to forecast where a player fits future team needs. With the number of players electing to graduate high school early, the options for those prospects have increased. A younger player with the chance to get the benefits of spring football and summer workouts under his belt, has a running start towards what could be early playing time in his college career.
"It's hard to recruit and expect guys to come in and play right away," Mullen said. "If they're graduating early, then they have a better chance. You take a lot of that into consideration, because they get to come in and go through spring ball. That gives them a little more of a chance to go and to play.
"We have a couple of guys playing now as freshmen that weren't here during the spring or some junior college transfers who are first year players and that just depends on how they develop."
Mississippi State is currently 2-4 on the season. While many expected a transition year, most expected a bowl game at the end of the 2016 season. Due to a couple of non-conference losses that most penciled in as wins during the pre-season, the Mississippi State bowl prospects are shaky at best.
Mullen explains that despite some adversity this fall, that the Bulldog sales pitch to recruits does not change much at all. Prospects and their families generally take a look at the broader picture rather than the on the field results of one season.
"You have to look at what we have done here," Mullen said. "We've won and we're going to win again. We have a lot of really good young players that are coming in.
"I think players look and they see that college football is so strange when you get to watch it. There are a lot of (2-4), (3-3) type teams out there right now. It almost looks a little like the NFL with a lot of parity.
"I think guys are looking at our player development. They look at the number of guys that we are putting into the NFL and it's not just that guys are getting there. They are succeeding at that level no matter if they were a 5 star or a 2 star. They've being developed.
"Add in the environment that we have here, the quality of the education that we provide and the level of success our guys are having off of the field. I think that's more of where it is than anything else."
Despite a season that has had some real challenges so far, Mullen reports that the Bulldog continue to be well received by prospects and their families. The Bulldog message and track record appears to still be the focus of future Bulldogs.
"I think all of that is going really good," Mullen said. "Guys are looking at the fact that we have had a lot of success and looking at the fact that we have a young team and a great future. A lot of people want to go to a program that is going to develop them for the next level as well as somewhere that the team is going to be really good in the future."
Mississippi State currently holds 21 verbal commitments for the 2017 signing class. The Bulldogs are ranked 21st nationally in the scout.com team rankings with some room to move up. A pair of in state four star standouts,C.J. Avery and Willie Gay remain priority targets. Should Mullen and his staff secure their signing day signatures, a top 20 class for the Bulldogs looks to be a strong possibility.