By JOEL COLEMAN
One of the wildest, most unpredictable recruiting classes in recent memory comes into focus for Mississippi State football on Wednesday as players put their names on the dotted line for the school of their choice as part of National Signing Day. It’s the culmination of months and sometimes years of work from MSU head coach Dan Mullen and his staff.
“One of the things we want to try to do is stick with what we believe and how we evaluate players,” Mullen said late last year. “It doesn’t mean we don’t want 5-star players. We want everybody to be a 5-star player in our mind, but we also want guys that aren’t satisfied where they are.”
Following months of commitments and decomittments, the Bulldogs enter today with 11 total verbal commits along with five players who were early enrollees at MSU. Yet the drama revolves mostly around four area players who many believe makes or breaks Mississippi State’s class.
Starkville High wide receiver A.J. Brown and defensive lineman Kobe Jones along with Noxubee County defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons and West Point offensive lineman Scott Lashley will all officially make their college decisions Wednesday, though at best, it appears MSU can only get three of those four.
Lashley announced on Tuesday afternoon that he is verbally committed to Alabama.
The Crimson Tide could play spoiler yet again for Mississippi State on Wednesday if they can pluck Brown out of the Bulldogs’ backyard. MSU’s instate rival is also in the mix as the four-star wideout chooses between Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama.
The other SHS Yellowjacket, Jones, is also deciding between the Bulldogs, Rebels and Crimson Tide.
While Mississippi State is widely considered the favorite to land Jones, the Bulldogs seem to be the underdog for Brown’s services behind Alabama and Ole Miss.
Meanwhile Simmons has kept his recruitment a little closer to his vest. According to 247Sports’ Crystal Ball Predictions, Ole Miss is leading for Simmons, but MSU is still very much in the game for the state’s top-rated player with Alabama lagging behind.
The signatures of one or all of Simmons, Brown, Jones, or even a last-minute flip from Lashley, would be a boon to a MSU recruiting class ranked by 247Sports as the 40th-best in the country and 12th in the Southeastern Conference as of Tuesday evening.
Outside of keeping a watchful eye on the four premier area players along with a handful of others, MSU coaches are expecting signatures today from their verbal commits. Greenwood defensive end Marquiss Spencer, athlete Jamal Couch from Central High in Phenix City, Alabama, offensive guard Stewart Reese from Fort Pierce Central in Fort Pierce, Florida, linebacker Erroll Thompson from Florence, Alabama, athlete Nero Nelson from Simmons High in Hollandale, athlete Korey Charles from North Florida Christian in Tallahassee, Florida, tight end Jordan Thomas from East Central Community College, offensive tackle Greg Eiland from Philadelphia High, athlete Cameron Dantzler from St. Thomas Aquinas in Hammond, Louisiana, offensive tackle Dareuan Parker from DeSoto Central and safety John Michael Hankerson from Washington High in South Bend, Indiana are all expected to join the Bulldogs.
Cornerback C.J. Morgan-Walker, tight end Dontea Jones, cornerback Lashard Durr, tight end Christian Roberson and defensive tackle Tre Brown are already enrolled at Mississippi State.
While uncertainties still remain as of now, by the end of the day on Wednesday the Bulldogs will know who else will be headed to campus. Mullen is hopeful his newest players will continue to push MSU forward.
“Part of our recruiting is to find guys with a chip on their shoulder and a great desire to get better and who are going to buy into the program, work really hard and continue to develop once they get here,” Mullen said.