Dan Mullen's traditional way of running business at Mississippi State when it comes to freshmen has, for the most part, been to ease the elite players that are ready for the college level into the rotation until they get a season under their belt. Even five-star Chris Jones wasn't a full-time starter his first year on campus.
Other than the 2009 class that included many first-year starters like Chad Bumphis and Chris Smith because of major depth issues, Mullen hasn't relied too heavily on freshmen to play a lot right away.
The 2015 class may be an exception, which is partly due to a slew of young talent coming in, and partly due to an instant need for more depth at a few positions. Granted, this is a much different situation than 2009 in Mullen's first year.
Nonetheless, NFL.com ranked MSU freshman safety Jamal Peters the #9 impact freshman in college football last week. A few days later Saturday Down South ranked MSU's 2015 class as the most impactful in the SEC. That got us to thinking: How crucial will these first-year players be to MSU's success?
When you take a look at some of the elite talent coming to Starkville, and at the needs at different positions, this group may make the difference in this being a good season or a great one. That includes both freshmen and JUCO players.
First and foremost, the safety position is in major need of some help after the departure of Justin Cox and Jay Hughes. Kendrick Market is back for his senior season but who knows how he will perform after his Achilles injury. Jamal Peters and Mark McLaurin will have to be every bit a part of that rotation from day one and may be called upon to start by the end of the season.
Wide receivers Donald Gray and Malik Dear had impressive springs and are too talented to keep off the field. De'Runnya Wilson and Fred Ross will take a lot of pressure off them, but Dear and Gray will have every opportunity to be playmakers on offense. Dear may even be involved in the running game every now and then.
After the graduation of Blaine Clausell, Dak Prescott will depend on a new man protecting his blind side this fall. Martinas Rankin is one of the strong candidates to take that job. As the No. 1 ranked offensive tackle and especially coming from junior college, they definitely didn't bring him in to sit on the bench. Rankin practiced more at right tackle this spring, but make no mistake about it, he will have a spot somewhere on the line.
Switching to the other side of the line, depth is thinner than it has been the past couple of years. It looks like Johnathan Calvin, another junior college player, will be in the rotation at defensive end to try to provide some extra depth. There is not much proven experience behind Ryan Brown and A.J. Jefferson.
The same can be said for T.D. Moton and Fletcher Adams. Both of these guys have a great chance to play right away on the defensive line. MSU lost some key players such as Preston Smith, Kaleb Eulls, and P.J. Jones and will look for some fresh blood to log some snaps.
And don't forget about the crown jewel of the class: Leo Lewis. MSU has a plethora of depth at linebacker but Lewis may be too talented to keep off the field. He's that good of a player. He wasn't rated the best inside linebacker in the country for no reason.
All of the players mentioned above have a great chance of playing and playing a lot in 2015. And who knows? There may be even more players impress in fall camp and earn some meaningful snaps this season. It's difficult to predict everyone who will play and who will redshirt because there are always a few surprises.
Either way, it's clear that this year's recruiting class will go a long way in determining the type of season the Bulldogs will have in 2015.