Ranking Mullen and Freeze Nationally

Ranking Mullen and Freeze Nationally

Athlon recently ran a story where they ranked all the coaches in college football. Dan Mullen came in at 23 and Hugh Freeze came in at 30. Notably, Mullen finished 1 spot above Les Miles and Hugh Freeze finished 1 spot above Mike Leach. Below are the breakdowns for both Mullen and Freeze but the rankings in their entirety can be read here.
23. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
Overall Record at Mississippi State: 29-22 (2009-present, 5 years)

Each BCS conference seems to have one coach that cannot be judged strictly on his record. Mullen fits that profile for the SEC, as he is coming off his fifth year in Starkville and has a 29-22 overall record. Although Mullen’s overall record isn’t overly impressive, Mississippi State is arguably one of the toughest jobs in the SEC. The Bulldogs have played in three consecutive bowl games under Mullen and are coming off a 4-4 conference record in the always loaded SEC. Mullen is 3-1 against rival Ole Miss and has won seven or more games in each of the last three seasons. Prior to taking the top spot at Mississippi State, Mullen worked as an assistant under Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. There’s no question Mullen needs to consistently beat some of the top teams in the SEC West to climb higher in the coach rankings. However, it’s not easy to win the division right now, especially as Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M could all be top-15 teams in 2013. If Mullen was at one of the top jobs in the conference – Florida, Alabama, LSU or Georgia – he would easily win at a higher level.

30. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss
Record at Ole Miss: 7-6 (2012-present)
Record at Arkansas State: 10-2 (2011)
Record at Lambuth: 20-5 (2008-09)
Overall Record: 37-13 (4 years)

After a successful debut in Oxford, a case could be made Freeze should be ranked higher on this list. The Mississippi native inherited an Ole Miss team that went 2-10 in the year prior to his arrival and guided the Rebels to a 7-6 finish with a victory over Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. After finishing 2011 as the SEC’s worst team, Ole Miss was one of college football’s top 40 teams last year. Success and improvement hasn’t just been limited to one stop for Freeze, as Lambuth was 20-5 from 2008-09 under his watch, and Arkansas State went 4-8 prior to his arrival, only to win 10 games in Freeze’s only season in Jonesboro. Freeze is bringing in a top-five recruiting class to Oxford, and the program is clearly headed in the right direction. The Mississippi native has never been a head coach at one stop long enough to show he can sustain success for five or more seasons. However, considering his recruiting haul and track record so far, there’s little to doubt Freeze will continue to climb on this list in the coming years.

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Mullen Steps Up Recruiting

Another unique piece of recruiting mail and another Internet buzz generated. For anyone keeping score, that’s the third time that has happened this cycle. The first was the infamous “you’re a baller” and the second was the “can of swag’ letter. The latest was a Mother’s Day card to Olive Branch offensive lineman Chase Johnson. All of these recruiting letters have gotten MSU a ton of publicity and gotten recruits talking about the Bulldogs. All good things in my mind.

While MSU fans are enjoying Dan Mullen leading this creative charge, the national media, radio host, and bloggers have taken every opportunity to scoff at MSU’ efforts. The latest of the snide articles was penned by Yahoo blogger Cameron Smith. The opening sentence in his piece is “This is getting ridiculous”. Smith is just another media member taking shots (a certain Mississippi sports radio personality took shots at “you’re a baller”) at Mullen doing everything he can to recruit in the SEC West with the smallest recruiting budget.

First I’ll say that I love what Mullen is doing. Recruits are opening MSU mail and talking about it on social media. Doesn’t mean they sign but its a good thing. With MSU’s small budget, Mullen has to find interesting ways to differentiate himself from the pack without spending a ton of cash. Mission accomplished.

What I don’t understand is some of the media pushback. In today’s college football landscape, prospects surface every cycle flashing hundred dollar bills but that gets overlooked and not a big deal. God forbid a cash strapped staff do some interesting recruiting letters and now these media guys have negative attitudes about it. If illegal benefits are “just part of recruiting” but different letters irritate you, please go get your head examined.

Even when you look at within the states borders we see the double standard in how it’s reported. Last recruiting cycle we saw Hugh Freeze recruit Kailo Moore in his underwear, he kissed Tunsil, and cried on the phone to a juco DT. All of these things, which I find weird and not the masculine football attitude I grew up around, were lauded as great recruiting and passionate. Chris Kiffin was given all kinds of awards for his performance last cycle and it was reported that he sent prospects hundreds of Facebook messages. That was lauded as genius and tenacious.

To be completely honest, I have no issue with any of it. If “you’re a baller” gets your foot in the door or if recruiting a guy in your underwear gets a commitment, that’s fine. The coaches and players involved in the recruiting process are the ones who have to deal with everything they’ve done, said, and the decision made. Recruiting is war and all is fair so don’t get upset over letters. It’s a long way until February and letters are just the tip of the iceberg.

MSU and Ole Miss Open 2013 with Monster Games

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While much of the country gets to settle in to their 2013 season with a cupcake game, MSU and Ole Miss both open with monsters. Both games have the ability to either catapult them into a great year or deflate and have them starting behind the eight ball. Mississippi State opens in a national kickoff game against early Big 12 favorite Oklahoma State at Reliant Field in Houston. Ole Miss gets Vandy in Nashville for a Thursday night prime time matchup on ESPN. Both games have huge implications for slightly different reason.

First thing that pops into mind for the MSU game is how risky it was to schedule this game. MSU has away trips to Auburn, South Carolina, and Texas A&M making our away slate brutal this year. MSU is trying to make its 4th bowl appearance in a row and a loss in the opener makes the road much more difficult. Pair that with home games against LSU and Alabama and the schedule looks daunting. One thing no one can deny about this game is the national exposure MSU will get from this game. It’s not like MSU doesn’t have a chance. MSU very well could pull off the victory over a highly ranked national opponent on national television. That is the flip side of this and one that would make the risk by Scott Stricklin look like a genius move if it were to materialize. Also, MSU gets a huge payout for this game so it certainly makes fiscal sense.

The Rebel’s opener is a bit different. They play their permanent eastern division opponent so it wasn’t a game that could be avoided on the schedule. Vandy is coming off of a 9 win season and the home crowd will be electric in Nashville. Ole Miss faces a daunting task as well. From an outsider viewpoint, it seems Ole Miss has some sort of mental issue in beating Vandy that would be huge to overcome in week 1 of the season. The Rebels have had teams that are plenty good enough to beat Vandy but misfortune has cost them some games in this series. A win in this one not only starts the Rebel’s with a conference win but also defeating a previous mental challenge that could lead them primed for another bowl season.

A loss for either team would sting but would by no means be damning to the season. I can look at both of the schedules and see 6 wins at a minimum with the opportunity for 7 and maybe 8 with an upset. On the other hand a win would leave you set for an 8 win type season and a better bowl. I like to look at it through the lens of the openers setting the stage for the Egg Bowl either way. If both teams win, we are looking at a possible prime time matchup to end the season with a really good bowl on the line. If both teams were to lose, we could be looking at a battle for bowl eligibility. Either way it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

The last thing I look at is which game is bigger? I could see MSU fans arguing that their game is bigger due to the schedule. MSU’s schedule is brutal this year and an out of conference loss certainly does you no favors to continue the bowl streak. In my eyes the Ole Miss game is the bigger game because more is on the line. First and foremost the Rebels are playing a conference game. Second, they get a cupcake in week 2 but that is followed by at Texas, at Alabama, and at Auburn. I know if I was a Rebel fan, a loss in the opener and I’d have some anxiety looking at that stretch. At the end of the day, both games are big to each school. Both games could be classified as “program defining moments”. Fans of both schools want to see wins and moving up to the next level and both of these games afford that. The 1 thing I feel certain about is both schools should have no problem staying focused on training with openers like that.

Signing Day Review: DL, LB, & DB

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MSU went heavy on the front 7 in the class of 2012 so DL and LB were not big priorities this cycle. CB on the other hand was. With the graduation of Jon Banks and Darius Slay, MSU needed to find some young talent to add to the roster. Regarding DL recruiting, we saw the jewel of our class in Chris Jones. MSU’s LB recruiting is showing a trend to take high school QB’s who have size and athleticism and mold them in to LB’s. At corner we saw perhaps our biggest miss of this recruiting cycle: Mackensie Alexander. After certain media outlets reported his commitment on his visit, MSU fans felt confident. I thought we stood a great chance but my theory is that losing Deon Mix late hurt with Alexander because they had been friends since their all-star game. All in all, still a good haul of talent on the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive Line

Chris Jones (5 star)– 6’5 250 from Houston, Mississippi. Jones was rated as the 2nd best prospect in America by 247 sports. Jones committed to MSU in the summer and stayed true despite a crazy recruitment at the end. Many national analysts have said Jones has more upside than any other player in this class. A rare blend of size, speed, athleticism, and aggressive streak have MSU fans excited that we now have a Jadaveon Clowney type talent. I said in early fall he would close the gap in ratings with Nkemdiche and he did (was ridiculed by Rebel fans).

(couldn’t find highlights so just interview) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7kj9DGI__c

Linebacker

Dezmond Harris (3 star)– 6’3 220 from Mccalla, Alabama. Harris played quarterback for a run oriented team so his recruitment was based on projection. Season was cut short by an ACL tear but he is progressing from the injury. He impressed MSU coaches at Big Dawg Camp while working with LB’s and earned an offer and he soon after committed. Doesn’t have quite the size but Harris reminds me of a Benardrick Mckinney type prospect. He was expected to redshirt so the injury wasn’t devastating.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afa3ZNch6xo

Defensive Back

Justin Cox (4 star)- 6’2 185 from West Point, Mississippi. Cox originally signed with MSU out of high school but did not qualify and rejoins the team as a juco transfer who is already in school now. Big time athlete in high school and juco. Has the versatility to play either safety or corner, which we need help at both. It will be interesting to see where he ends up but Mullen did say in the NSD presser that he would start off at CB. Expect immediate impact.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uO2g4NJXHTU&playnext=1&list=PL20C862F2C8DF5D87&feature=results_video

Kivon Coman (3 star)- 6’1 200 from Florence, Alabama. Coman originally signed with MSU last year but attended Hargrave for 1 year to reach academic qualifier status. He is the cousin of current bulldog Beni Brown. Coman has good size for the defensive backfield. He plays smart football and his game has a smooth look to it. One year of prep school should have helped his development. Coman provides big talent and upside to the safety position.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaAQUBDQbUc

Jahmere Irvin-Sills (3 star)- 5’10 172 from Elkton, Maryland. Sills was a former Auburn commitment who chose to open his commitment back up after a change of staff. He has quick feet and good cover skills projecting him as a CB. He was also a dangerous kick returner for his high school team. Very smart kid who is reported to be a hard worker. Very good late pick up for MSU.

(interview only) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DT5gdUwFQhc

Gabe Myles (3 star)- 6’0 183 from Starkville, Mississippi. Myles was rated as a high 3 star by the services and probably could have been higher if he would have done more camps and not committed so early. Myles father played for MSU and he starred at local Starkville High School leading the Yellow Jackets to a state championship as their QB. Myles future is at CB.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAkLCK-w0rA

Brandon Wells (3 star)- 6’2 175 from Bogue Chitto, Mississippi. Wells showed great speed and athleticism at camps this summer and earned an offer. He became an early commitment for the dogs. Great size to go with his speed. He could end up at WR but his skill set and attributes begs for the safety position. Will need time to develop.

(interview) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljHpcIdUnVY

Tolando Cleveland (3 star)- 6’0 170 from Powder Springs, Georgia. Cleveland was committed to Georgia Tech until a week out form signing day when he flipped to MSU. Mullen and staff were impressed at camps this summer with Cleveland and stayed on him after him even after his commitment. Good size for a corner and also good cover skills. I’d look for a redshirt and a year to work with Deshea Townsend.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5UuzYZvhvY

Signing Day Review: WR

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MSU graduated 5 senior WR’s from the 2012 roster with 4 of those being heavy contributors. Dan Mullen’s spread offense requires there to be an abundance of WR’s on the roster.  Heading in to this class everyone knew that WR was a huge need and MSU took great measures to meet that need signing 6 and possibly 7 depending on where Brandon Wells ends up. I think its safety so I’ll profile him there. When you look at this list a few thing jumps out: stars and size. MSU signed 2 high end guys and all of the rest have great size. The one miss was 4 star Corey Smith of EMCC. He could have provided immediate help in the slot but my sources were not thrilled about him from the beginning and do not consider him a huge loss for a myriad of reasons. MSU also signed 1 TE that is profiled at the end.

Jeremey Chapelle (3 star)- 6’2 212 from Tyler, Texas. Chappelle is the lone juco WR from Tyler JC and should help immediately. He is a big physical receiver who attacks the football and uses his body to shield off DB’s. Look for him to challenge for a starting position come fall.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7GyxXEVKho

Fred Ross (4 star)- 6’2 185 from Tyler, Texas. Ross flipped from Oklahoma State to MSU 1 day before NSD. Great pickup for MSU.  Ross is a big time talent from a big time program in Texas. Great size and is very polished for a high school WR. Expect him to challenge for playing time in the fall.

http://www.hudl.com/athlete/460788/#highlights/28760374

Donald Gray (4 star)- 5’10 180 from Memphis, Tennessee. Gray is a speed demon who has the ability to score on every touch. Academics kept his recruitment under the radar but he emerged in the classroom late and MSU’s persistence paid off. National 247 analysts said he is arguably the best player in Tennessee.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3VNvBOuMsM

Shelby Christy (3 star)- 6’3 190 from Geismar, Louisiana. No doubt the most underrated WR in this class. Christy was hands down the best WR at Big Dawg Camp. Big physical WR with good speed. Plays the ball very well and has the physical appearance of being “college ready” for a high school kid. With limited upper classman, I wouldn’t be surprised if Christy breaks the rotation as a true freshman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSNTAZ_cSH4

BJ Hammond (3 star)- 6’4 210 from Gadsden, Alabama. Hammond is an under the radar prospect because of the run heavy offense he played in.  Hammond did enough on the camp circuit for MSU to offer and get an early commitment. Hammond is very self-confident and was one of our best recruiters last year. He is all bulldog. Very raw and may need some time to develop.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYtp1Xyfyz0

(I had to post an interview for yall. He has “swag”) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gI186qKaz1U

De’Runnya Wilson (3 star)– 6’5 212 from Birmingham, Alabama.  There may not be a WR signed in 2013 in this class with more upside than Wilson. He has been a lifelong basketball star who just started playing football. Freakish athlete with his mixture of size, speed, agility, and ball skills. He is extremely raw and will need some coaching but he could very well end up being the jewel of this WR class. He also plans to walk on the basketball team.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0X3K_m56Hso

(steal and reverse jam) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OHhvu-y6Z8

Artimas Samuel (2 star)- 6’2 250 from Columbus, Georgia. Orinally committed to MSU last year but needed 1 year of prep school where he was the teammate of current signee Kivon Coman. Samuel will probably end up being used as a TE in our offense. Simply grew out of WR after high school. Had a bunch of big time offers as a JR but academic issues slowed his recruitment down. A big, strong kid with good hands who is a steal for MSU.

http://www.hudl.com/mp/20570/2011##7609492-0

Signing Day Review: QB, RB, OL

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Quarterback

MSU entered the 2013 siging class in dire need of signal callers. With only 2 scholarship QB’s and the departure of Jamil Golden for academic reasons, this became a crucial need. This was addressed with 2 quality prospects.

Cord Sandberg (4 star)- 6’2 200 dual threat QB from Bradenton, Florida. He committed over the summer and stuck with his decision.  Seems to be the perfect fit for Mullen’s offense and a Tebow clone.  Professional baseball is a concern but it will take top 3 round money to get him to sign. Playing outfield lends me to believe he could end up at MSU. A pitcher or infielder with his pro rating would be gone. Huge pickup for MSU and every bit worth the risk involved.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mUWelpOmuc

Damien Williams (3 star)- 6’1 215 dual threat QB from Metairie, Louisiana. He flipped to MSU the week before signing day from USM. He also had offers from Kansas State and Nebraska.  MSU really needed a second QB anyway but much more so after Cord’s rise in MLB draft status. Calling this kid a backup plan does not do him justice. Touted by many as the best high school QB in Louisiana this year.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAVtOASAENE

Running Back

MSU entered this class not really needing more than 1 RB. We would have taken 2 if Kailo would have stayed on board but there is no doubt MSU got the best RB in Mississippi and one of the best in the south. Don’t take my word, ask Rueben Foster. He saw first-hand how hard Ashton runs when he got run over in the the Ms/Ala all-star game.

Ashton Shumpert (4 star)- 6’2 212 big back from Tupelo, Mississippi. Extremely gifted athlete for his size.  Runs extremely hard. Many MSU fans have been hoping for a powerful back to emerge and Shumpert represents that for the future.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8nE2TmgcoI

Offensive Line

MSU entered 2013 trying to sign 3-4 more big uglies as they do every year.  O-line is hard to project so picking up a few every year is imperative. MSU ended up with 3 this year but wanted 4. The last minute loss was Deon Mix. Of the 4 he had the worst feet but he was a big strong kid from South Panola. You just don’t want to miss on that. Unfortunately we did, but we got some good ones.

Jake Thomas (4 star)- 6’5 300 tackle from Columbus, Mississippi. A big kid with a good frame and good feet.  Thomas came into the year with a lot of hype, hence the 4 stars, but played injured the whole year and had a somewhat quiet senior season. He first turned eyes on the camp circuit and garnered attention for his dominant performance against Channing Ward as a Jr. He probably projects at RT or guard.

(couldn’t find highlight but found an interview) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d85xycH5Hww

Kent Flowers (3 star)- 6’4.5 295 from Hollandale, Mississippi. He first caught coach’s attentions with his athleticism in the camp circuit. Flowers is raw but has great feet, athleticism, and frame.  The sky is the limit for him. I think he is our LT to-be behind Blaine Clausell.

(couldn’t find highlights but found an interview) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-3j7SallY0

Jamaal Clayborn (3 star)- 6’3 315 from Flowood, Ms. Another really big kid with decent feet. Committed to MSU early in the process and shut down his recruitment. Had a good senior year for Jackson Academy.  A really smart kid who I think ends up at C because he can has the smarts to be the “QB of the line”.

(interview with a couple highlights) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PA42QPWKA4o