The Recruiting Journey of the Dan Mullen Era

Butch Dill

A look at each recruiting class Dan Mullen has signed to track how his recruiting ability has improved.

With MSU signing its second consecutive top-25 recruiting class and the third of the Dan Mullen era in early February, I decided to take a look at each class Dan Mullen has signed and dive deeper into them, tracking how his recruiting ability has grown.

While Dan Mullen came in with the philosophy of recruiting heavily within the borders of Mississippi -- something he has done well -- it is clear that he has built the program into one that carries a national name that has allowed him to bring in recruits from all over the southeast and the country. In 2014 and going forward, look for Mullen to have even more success with out-of-state recruits.

Anyways, I'm beginning to ramble, so I'll just dive right into the class breakdowns. I'll highlight where each class ranked, significant signees, and then give a breakdown of the class. At the end, I'll give my overall breakdown of Mullen's recruiting in his time at MSU.

Also, all the rankings that will be displayed in this article are courtesy of Scout.com. This was to eliminate confusion.

2009

Class Rank: 19 Signees: 27

4/5 Star Signees:

- Tyler Russell - 4 star #13 QB - Meridian, MS

- Fletcher Cox - 4 star #17 DE - Yazoo City, MS

- Josh Boyd - 4 star #12 DT - Philadelphia, MS

- Chris White - 4 star JUCO MLB - Vancleave, MS

- Montrell Conner - 4 star #31 RB - Monroe, LA

- Maurice Langston - 4 star JUCO WR - Meridian, MS

- Pernell McPhee - 4 star JUCO DE - Pahokee, FL

- Chad Bumphis - 4 star #33 - Tupelo, MS

Other Notable Signees:

- Cam Lawrence - Senatobia, MS

- Gabe Jackson - Liberty, MS

- Darius Slay - Brunswick, GA (later signed with ICC)

- Johnthan Banks - Maben, MS

- LaDarius Perkins - Greenville, MS

- Billy Hamilton - Taylorsville, MS (was drafted in the 2nd round of the MLB draft and signed with the Cincinnati Reds)

Analysis

While much of the class was assembled by Sly Croom, especially most of the big fish such as Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd, Mullen was essential in landing the likes of Pernell McPhee and Chad Bumphis. Bumphis was all set to play for Mullen at Florida, and he eventually followed Mullen to MSU. While not everyone in this class has moved on, most have and many have gone onto the NFL. The number of JUCO players in this class allowed Mullen to put a 5-7 team on the field in 2009, even without getting much from the QB position.

2010

Class Rank: 38 Signees: 26

4/5 Star Signees:

- Kaleb Eulls - 4 star #21 DE - Yazoo City, MS

- Matthew Wells - 4 star #17 RB - Monticello, MS

- Damien Robinson - 4 star #9 OT - Olive Branch, MS

Other Notable Signees:

- Dillon Day - West Monroe, LA

- Nick Griffin - New Augusta, MS

- Vick Ballard - Pascagoula, MS

- Jameon Lewis - Tylertown, MS

Analysis

Mullen's first full class did not turn heads initially outside of three in-state 4 stars. Now, however, we see this class included an NFL find from the JUCO ranks in Vick Ballard. Many players in this class such as Jameon Lewis, Jamerson Love, Robert Johnson, and Nick Griffin (if healthy) appear to be close to making an impact. Also includes two starters on the offensive line in Dillon Day and Blaine Clausell.

2011

Class Rank: 45 Signees: 22

4/5 Star Signees:

- Joe Morrow - 4 star #30 WR - Ocean Springs, MS

- Dee Arrington - 4 star #9 S - Wiggins, MS

Other Notable Signees:

- Dak Prescott - Haughton, LA

- Justin Cox - West Point, MS (eventually signed with EMCC)

- Darius Slay - resigned from ICC

- Bernardrick McKinney - Tunica, MS

Analysis

Another class that lacked "star appeal," but has proven to be solid. This was the year that crown jewel, CJ Johnson, flipped in late January. This was also the year of the wide receiver in Mississippi and MSU was able to get just one of the big time in-state WRs. However, Joe Morrow is one of just two of those WRs that has remained with the school they signed with, while Nick Brassell is returning to Ole Miss, but to be a defensive back. The other was Donte Moncrief. Tobias Singleton transferred from Ole Miss to Jackson State before last season. While Morrow is still yet to prove himself on the field, his talent has never been the question. Talented safety signee Zack Jackson has yet to settle at a position long enough to get on the field. Devin Fosselman and James Maiden were two talented signees who have since departed. Dak Prescott has shown flashes of promise and the ability to thrive in Dan Mullen's system and should see increased playing time in 2013 before taking the reigns in 2014. Cox, despite his 3 star status, was probably the most talented signee of the class. Darius Slay proved to be another NFL caliber player from the JUCO ranks. Dan Mullen touted Kendrick Market, "the best player in Mississippi," in this class, despite him being a two star. Market has yet to make an impact. PJ Jones was a big pick up from Tupelo that has yet to blossom. Taveze Calhoun and the two running back signees, Josh Robinson and Derrick Milton, have each shown a lot of promise.

2012

Class Rank: 18 Signees: 28

4/5 Star Signees:

- Will Redmond - 4 star #19 CB - Memphis, TN *

- Nick James - 4 star #12 DT - Long Beach, MS

- Quay Evans - 5 star #3 DT - Morton, MS**

- Denico Autry - 5 star JUCO DE - Albemarle, NC

- Beniquez Brown - 4 star #20 OLB - Florence, AL

* indicates first out-of-state 4 star or higher signee of Dan Mullen era

** indicates first 5 star signee of Dan Mullen era

Other Notable Signees:

- Devon Bell - Vicksburg, MS.

Analysis

While many signees in this class were redshirted and have not had time to make an impact, this was the class that got Dan Mullen going, as far as an on-paper class. This class included Mullen's first 5 star signee, in fact, it included two. This class also included Mullen's first out-of-state 4 star or higher signee. Mullen added a significant amount of talent to his defense in this class. QB Nick Schuessler and ATH Xavier Grindle from this class have each departed. This was the year of the defensive line in Mississippi and Mullen was a Channing Ward short of sweeping the lot.

2013

Class Rank: 22 Signees: 21

4/5 Star Signees:

- Chris Jones - 5 star #2 DE - Houston, MS ***

- Cord Sandberg - 4 star #23 QB - Bradenton, FL

- Jake Thomas - 4 star #26 OT - Columbus, MS

- Justin Cox - 4 star JUCO S - West Point, MS

- Ashton Shumpert - 4 star #20 RB - Itawamba, MS

- Fred Ross - 4 star #23 WR - Tyler, TX

*** indicates highest rated signee of Dan Mullen era

Other Notable Signees:

- Artimas Samuel - Columbus, GA(a 2012 signee who was resigned from Hargrave)

- Kivon Coman - Florence, AL(also a 2012 signee who was resigned from Hargrave)

Analysis

Perhaps Dan Mullen's most impressive class to date. Chris Jones was an incredible find in state for Dan Mullen. He was a long time commitment before becoming one of the hottest recruits in the country. Then there were the two big out-of-state signees in Cord Sandberg and Fred Ross. Then you have to like the in-state offensive lineman in Jake Thomas, Kent Flowers, and Jamal Clayborn. Add to that guys like Ashton Shumpert and Justin Cox, who could be the most talented signees in the class that quietly pledged to MSU. Mullen was also able to re-stock the cupboard at receiver as he signed six WRs. Mullen was able to mix talented in-state signees with a good amount of talent from outside the magnolia state. He took a major step forward in this class as far as his ability to recruit nationally at MSU.

Overall Analysis

First, I would like to say that the "other notable signees" I listed in each class are not guys that were big recruits, but guys that have made an impact in their time at MSU. That is why some of the more recent classes lack the "other notable signees", because guys have yet to distinguish themselves as notable signees yet.

Then, I would like to point out, starting with the 2010 class, how each class has gotten better and included more depth. The 2009 class was a great class, but more a testament to Dan Mullen's ability to hold the class together and find guys late, as most of the heavy lifting had been done by Crooms, as I previously mentioned.

Dan Mullen has always included a high number of Mississippi guys in his classes, but the quality of the out-of-state recruits he signs has gradually gotten better with each class, and as he grows the MSU brand nationally and develops great connections in metro areas outside of Mississippi, I expect this to continue to trend upward.

Two things that really jump out to me about Dan Mullen and his recruiting is his ability to hire coaches and when he takes commitments. Mullen has had coaches come and go, but his recruiting has steadily progressed, because he replaces coaches with coaches that are similar in that they are energetic, good coaches and great recruiters. I expect his success to continue as it has because he possess the innate ability to hire coaches. This is essential in the college game. On the other topic, Mullen seems to really put a high value on his in-camp evaluations. Mullen usually does not take a lot of pre-summer commitments. He likes to get recruits to his summer camps and evaluate them there and he usually takes a lot of summer commitments. This has been consistent throughout his tenure.

While the 2014 class will be a smaller than usual class, -- which could keep it from being ranked as high as it would be if it included 20 or more signees -- I still expect Mullen to get many quality Mississippi guys and add a few talented guys from outside the state. Of course, FWtCT will keep you up to date on all those guys as the 2014 class moves further along.

I hope this was an interesting look into the evolution of Dan Mullen's recruiting and let me know if you guys have any comments or suggestions.

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