The lifeblood of college football is recruiting. You can coach 'em up, train 'em, teach 'em for several years to make them into a great player, but the quickest path to success is to recruit a bunch of talent and get them on the field. After a season in which MSU was unable to beat any bowl teams, talent level is called into question. Recruiting is called into question.
It's recruiting season, and even though State is ranked in the top 25 by Scout and 24/7, most folks are on edge... particularly because of what's happening in Oxford. But we're just going to have to face it - Hugh Freeze is a better recruiter than Dan Mullen. We laugh at the 678,432 offers he's thrown out, but he's landed some talent and it looks like he's about to hit the motherload. That has us wondering, what is going on - why isn't MSU doing the same?
Well, for starters, at least right now Ole Miss and Mississippi State's 2013 classes look about even. Freeze may end up in the top 10, and that is amazing I have to say, but this isn't about Ole Miss, it's about MSU.
I'm no recruiting expert or recruiting historian, but every time State has a good class it is a direct result of how they performed two years prior. The only exception I see is the 1997 class, but that was filled with Jucos who just saw JWS beat #8 Alabama and Ole Miss to end the 1996 season.
Most recruits make their decision the summer before their senior year, so a lot of what they are basing it off of is the season that school just had. So when Tyler Russell or Fletcher Cox saw the 2007 season that ended in a Liberty Bowl win, they were excited to commit in early 2008 for the '09 class. That's why the 2002 class was still a really good one despite what happened in 2001. Dan Mullen's first real class in 2010 wasn't so hot, those recruits saw MSU for what the '08 season had to offer. And in 2011, they were coming off 2009's 5-7 year. But last year, 2012, the prospects were committing to a 9-4 team that had just won the Gator Bowl.
This has been the pattern for Mississippi State....getting recruits based off success on the field. Plain and simple, we just haven't been able to pull together a bunch of talent because of our ability to recruit. That is what is remarkable about what Hugh Freeze is doing, he is getting these guys who's memory is a 2-10 team. But I can't give Freeze all the credit, some of it is just Ole Miss. Ed Orgeron put together some great classes with the backdrop of 3-4 win seasons. As much as I hate to say it, some of it is, right or wrong, Mississippi State.
So we've established that Freeze is getting it done. And that we need some winning seasons in order to get some talent to Starkville. Well, the good news is that State went 7-6 in 2011 and so the 2013 class is looking pretty good so far. Hopefully it will finish well and we'll have another top 25 class to look forward to. And 2012, as bad as it was at times, was another winning year, and should lead to another solid class in 2014.
We know that it is possible to reel in some top flight prospects without having to take the time to establish a winning tradition. But that hasn't happened too often in MSU history, so let's not hang our hat on it all of the sudden happening. What we do know is that we have actually started a winning tradition by laying the foundation of 3 straight bowl games...some of the hardest work is behind us.
There is always critiquing to be done. Good recruiters are out there to be hired - Tim Brewster was a coup for this staff (talk about making lemonade out of lemons). Maybe we need to swap out a few guys (human beings with families we are talking about like baseball trading cards) to get better on the field or the recruiting trails. But overall, we are on the right path. We are the tortoise, Ole Miss is the hare. Who wins that race again?
In the meantime, at least try to enjoy some of what 2012 had to offer. Exercise the bragging rights over Auburn while we got them, Arkansas too. Those wins don't come around too often, Tennessee either. Hail State.