This winter, Dan Mullen is rolling his recruiting dice in a great big way. One full day into the NCAA’s early 2016-17 signing period, the Bulldog coach has already obtained aid papers from no less than nine junior college prospects eligible to both sign in December and enroll in January. And, of course, participate in all spring semester football activities.
This may not be the final tally, either, as one more available prospect remains unsigned and much-sought. Mullen also dipped into the early-graduating high school ranks for four eligible prospects.
So how exceptional is a nine (or possibly 10) juco signing class already in the fold for spring? This: in his seven previous December classes, Mullen signed a total of 19 transfers. And the largest single class up to now as in his very first winter in Starkville, with six jucos inked in December 2008 for the 2009 season.
A four-man high schooler group is also a Mullen record, though not by much. That same first year brought in three prep prospects, as did both 2015 and ’16.
Now there have been years where Mississippi State did not, or for numbers and availability could not, bring in a big early group. 2014 only produced a pair, one juco and one high schooler. But since that lone prep recruit was Nick Fitzgerald, call it a win again. Especially if Fitzgerald ultimately matches the career of another early-sign quarterback, Dak Prescott of December 2010.
It needs noting that early signees are not always wins. The following list includes several from both JC or high school who did not become stars, or major contributors, or even make it to the following season at all.
Media and fans increasingly understand that junior college recruiting in general is a roll of dice; and that compared to the 1990s the total talent level of juco football has fallen off greatly. Mostly for the positive reason that high schools do a better job getting their players eligible for senior college. The impact on future high school recruiting image by dipping too deeply into the jucos is another risk as State learned years ago.
Bulldog fans of long memory also will naturally wonder. Will this big early-juco class, as well as any transfers signed in February, compare to either the epic for-1997 group; or the for-2001 class of bitter memory? Only time will tell.
But since on the whole these calculations have worked out well for eight seasons so far, look for Dan Mullen and Mississippi State to take these risk.
MULLEN ERA EARLY SIGNEES as of 11:00am December 15, 2016
28 junior college, 22 high school
2009 – Junior College: WR Leon Berry, P Sean Brauchle, K Heath Hutchins, DL Pernell McPhee, LB Chris White
High School: QB Cameron Lawrence, K Baker Swedenburg, OL Sam Watts
2010 – Junior College: RB Vick Ballard, OL James Carmon,
High School: OL Blaine Clausell
2011 – Junior College: OL Joey Trapp
High School: DL John Harris, QB Dak Prescott, OL Nick Redmond
2012 – Junior College: DL Denico Autry, OL Dylan Holley, OL Charles Siddoway
High School: DL Quay Evans, Justin Senior (prep school)
2013 – Junior College: WR Jeremy Chappelle, DB Justin Cox
High School: DB Kivon Coman, TE Artimas Samuel
2014 – Junior College: OL Jocquell Johnson
High School: QB Nick Fitzgerald
2015 – Junior College: DL Jonathan Calvin, WR Donald Gray, OL Martinas Rankin
High School: WR Malik Dear, OL Michael Story, WR Deddrick Thomas
2016 – Junior College: DL Tre Brown, DB Lashard Durr
High School: TE Dontae Jones, DB C.J. Morgan, TE Christian Roberson
2017—Junior College: DB Johnathan Abram, DL Lee Autry, OL Tommy Champion, DB Brian Cole, DB Jaquarius Landrews, OL Tyre Phillips, DL Deion Pope, DL Chauncy Rivers, DL Montez Sweat
High School (unofficial) – DL James Jackson, QB Keytaon Thompson, WR Austin Williams, DB Tyler Williams