For the fourth time since 2012, it appears that the Mississippi St. Bulldogs is poised to find themselves with a recruiting class ranked in the national Top 25. As it stands, the Bulldogs’ class ranks 24th in the country with four four-star players including two who announced their intentions to be in Starkville come the fall on National Signing Day Wednesday.
4* OLB Willie Gay
Gay emerges as the top player in Dan Mullen’s 2017 class. He’s an in-state product - from right in Starkville to be precise - and is the second best player in the state of Mississippi behind Florida State commit Cam Akers. A player of Gay’s caliber should help make Mississippi State’s defense a force to be reckoned with if he comes into his own.
With Richie Brown and DeAndre Ward graduating, Gay could see the field early on if he beats out a few of the rising seniors that will be returning to Starkville next year. When he does eventually get it going, he should prove to be the biggest impact player of this class.
4* RB Kylin Hill
The other four-star player that Mississippi State hauled in on National Signing Day was running back Kylin Hill. Hill ranks as the third-best player in the 2017 class for the Bulldogs behind the aforementioned Willie Gay as well as dual threat quarterback Keytaon Thompson, who has already enrolled. He’s an in-state product from Columbus, just 26 miles away from Starkville and had already been committed to Dan Mullen’s program since May.
Hill stayed true to his word despite fielding offers from other schools, most notably the Texas Longhorns back in December. After taking his official visit back in January, Hill made it official on National Signing Day and will step into a backfield where he can create an opportunity for himself. Aeris Williams should have a stranglehold after rushing for 720 yards and 5.3 yards per carry last year, but from there we maybe can expect Hill to break through with both Brandon Holloway and Ashton Shumpert graduating.
After rushing for over 1,700 yards and amassing 24 touchdowns in his senior season, Hill should be ready to make an impact as a freshman when he suits up this coming fall for the Bulldogs.
- Staying in state: State picked up another Mississippi product in addition to Gay and Hill on Wednesday in the form of weak-side defensive end Aaron Odom. Odom is ranked 10th in the state and is a three-star player and will look to help boost a defensive that created plenty of havoc last year. Recruiting in state seemed to be a big priority though for Mississippi State. Per 247Sports’ commit page, 15 players in the 24-player class are from the state of Mississippi with 12 having already enrolled.
- Far reach: Mullen extended his reach out to Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee on National Signing Day as the Bulldogs picked up two from Tennessee (safety Landon Guidry, punter Tucker Day), two from Florida (offensive tackle Cordavien Suggs, outside linebacker Tyler Dunning) and two from Georgia (defensive tackle Jaquavious Collins, offensive tackle Montravious Richardson). The farthest west Mississippi State went? Colorado, where Littleton’s three-star defensive tackle Noah Elliss was found. Louisiana was also featured in the form of Josh Cooper, a three-star guard from Haughton.
- Defense, defense, defense: Of the 11 signees on Wednesday, six players were on the defensive side of the ball. It appears that after finishing with a relatively porous effort on defense in 2016, Dan Mullen is emphasizing a bit of a rebuild on that side of the field. With plenty of offensive talent scattered around the west, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
- Willie Gay is one of the top recruits since 2000: Per 247Sports’ All-Time Recruits list (or, well, at least since they’ve been tracking since 2000), Willie Gay ranks as the 12th-best commit for the program in the last 17 years. He’s ahead of notable players Fletcher Cox, Pernell McPhee, Josh Boyd and Fred Ross and in the company of Denico Autry, Leo Lewis and Jamal Peters. While he isn’t Deljuan Robinson, Chris Jones or even Jerious Norwood, Willie Gay’s standing should prove to be exciting for State fans going forward as far as his possible prospects go.