football

In Mississippi, keeping kids home is key

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More:OleMiss|Miss.St.|SouthernMiss.
MississippiStatecoachDanMullenknowsallaboutthelonglistofMississippihighschoolplayerswhoachievedNFLgreatness.HealsoisalltoocognizantofthefactthatnearlyallofthemplayedcollegefootballsomewhereotherthanMississippiState.
MullenhasspentmuchofhistenureinStarkvillemakingsurethenextgreatMississippi-bredstardoesn'tleavethestateforcollege.
"We'vegottodoagreatjobofevaluatingthemsowedon'tmissonJerryRice,"Mullensaid."Wedon'tmissonBrettFavreorSteveMcNair.Wedon'tmissonWalterPayton,whichhasallhappenedinthepast.ThoseareguysfromMississippiwhohavegoneontohavehugecareers.I'dlovetogointoourfootballhalloffameandseeallthosenamesasformerplayershere."
Mullen'smissionisevidentfromalookattheBulldogs'recentsigningclasses,thoughMississippiState'sfondnessforin-staterecruitsactuallyprecededhisarrivalin2009.
Morethantwo-thirdsoftheplayerstosignwithMississippiStateoveritslastfiverecruitingclassescamefromthestateofMississippi.Ifyoudon'tcountschoolsfromthetalent-ladenstatesofCalifornia,FloridaandTexas,onlyVirginiaTechhassignedahigherpercentageofin-staterecruitsthanMississippiStateoverthelastfiveyears.Andthat'sonlyifyouincludeD.C.playersasin-stateprospectsforVirginiaTech.
Forcomparison'ssake,Mississippiproductsmadeup42.4percentofSouthernMisssigneesandjust31.4percentofOleMissrecruitsoverthesametimeframe.
Thatdiscrepancyisn'tlostonMadison(Miss.)CentralHigh'sBobbyHall,whohascoachedMississippihighschoolsandjuniorcollegesfor32years.HallbelievesMississippiState'semphasisonin-stateplayers-andOleMiss'lackthereof-explainswhytheBulldogshavewonthelastthreeEggBowlsbetweenthetwoteams.
MississippiStatebeatOleMiss31-3lastseasonwhilestartingeightplayersonoffenseandeightmoreondefensefromthestateofMississippi.OleMissstartedthreehome-stateplayersonoffenseandfourondefenseforthatgame.
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"ThestaffthatwasatOleMissdidnotunderstandtheimportanceofsigningMississippikids,"Hallsaid."Inturn,thestaffatMississippiStatedoes.That'sonereasonwhyMississippiStateisbeatingOleMissinthatgamerightnow,becausethey'replayingthatgamewithMississippikids.
"Youcan'ttellme-whentheyplaythatState-OleMissgame-thatakidfromGeorgia,Florida,AlabamaorTexascaresasmuchaboutthatgameasakidfromMississippidoes.I'mjustnotgoingtobuythat.Look,we'resmall-townAmerica,OK?Thesekidswhogrowuphere,whentheygotothebarbershopandtheygodowntowntothedrugstoreandtheyheartalkaboutMississippiState-OleMissandtheyhearthatalltheirlives,itmatterstothem.''
Thereclearlyisplentyoftalenttobefoundinthisstate.Mississippihad33playersonNFLrostersatthestartofthe2011season.LouisianawastheonlystatewithahighernumberofNFLplayerspercapita.
"It'sinthatsecondtier,"Rivals.comnationalrecruitinganalystMikeFarrellsaid."Florida,TexasandCaliforniaarethefirsttier.AndthenthesecondtierisGeorgia,Louisiana,OhioandMississippiwouldbeinthatgroup.It'sagoodstate.Thebiggestissuehasalwaysbeenacademics.There'sbeenalotofkidswhohavetroublequalifyingormightnotgettheacademicsthatalotofschoolswantfromarecruit."
Thewidegapinin-stateplayersbetweenMississippiStateandOleMissdatestotheearlyyearsofformerRebelscoachHoustonNutt'sregime.OleMisssignedjustsixplayerseachfromthestateofMississippiin2008and2009,whereasMississippiStatehasaddedatleast16in-stateplayerseachofthelastfiveyears.
Nuttfocusedmoreonin-statetalentlaterinhistenure.OleMisssignedeachofthestate'stopfiveprospectsin2011,includingfive-starlinebackerC.J.JohnsonofPhiladelphiaHigh,Rivals100receiverNickolasBrassellofBatesvilleSouthPanolaandfour-starreceiverDonteMoncriefofRaleighHigh.MoncriefandBrassellwereOleMiss'twoleadingreceiversastruefreshmenlastseason,whileJohnson'sfourtacklesforlosstiedhimforfifthplaceontheteam.
OleMissalsosignedthestate'stop2012prospectandthenation'sNo.51overallrecruitlastmonthinAberdeenHighdefensiveendChanningWard,whocommittedtotheRebelsafterNuttwasfiredandreplacedbyformerArkansasStatecoachHughFreeze.
"Ourgoalistowinthestate,noquestionaboutthat,"saidMauriceHarris,OleMiss'tightendscoachandrecruitingcoordinatorforoffense."Fromarecruitingstandpoint,there'salwaysbeentalentinthestateofMississippi.There'stalentthisyear.Andourgoal'sdefinitelytowinthestate."
Mississippihighschoolcoachesexpectevenmorecompetitionforthestate'stoptalentnowthatOleMissandSouthernMississippihavemadecoachingchanges.ThenewcoachesatbothschoolshaveMississippiroots.
FreezeisaMississippinativewhoservedasOleMiss'recruitingcoordinatorin2006and2007.SouthernMississippi'sEllisJohnson,whotookovertheprogramafterLarryFedoraleftforNorthCarolina,previouslyworkedasadefensivecoordinatoratSouthernMissandMississippiState.
"CoachFedoraandthemwereagreatstaff,butIthinkthisstaffhereprobablyknowstheareaalittlebetterandmaybeknowsMississippialittlebetter,"OakGroveHighcoachNevilleBarrsaid."Ithinkthey'lldoagreatjobinSouthernMissandthroughoutMississippi....IthinkOleMissknowswhatthey'vegottodotoo.There'salotoftalentinMississippi,andIthinkOleMisswillrecruitithardtoo.Ithinkit'sgoingtopickup,withallthreeschoolsreallyrecruitinghardforMississippiathletes."
HallsaidthechangeinapproachatOleMissisapparent.
"It'sdonea180,"Hallsaid."Youcanalreadysee.It'sgoingtobeonnowbetweenMullenandHughFreeze."
Mississippi'sthreeRivals250prospectsfor2013-SouthPanolasafetyAntonioConner(No.38),RosedaleWestBolivarrunningbackKailoMoore(No.74)andSouthPanolaoffensivetackleDeonMix(No.121)remainuncommitted.MooredecommittedfromOleMissafterNutt'sfiringbutreportedlycontinuestofavortheRebels.
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"Ijustwanttogettoknowthecoachesmore,gettoknowtheplayersontheteam,seewhattheyexpectfrommein2013,"MooretoldRebelGrove.comlastmonth."IthinkI'mgoingtojustgothroughtheprocess,butifIgettoknowthesecoachesalittlemorelikeIknowthecoachesfromthepreviousyear,it'llbeanearlycommitmentthen."
SimplegeographycouldpreventOleMissfromeverhavingquiteasmanyMississippiplayersasMississippiState.KeepinmindthatOleMiss'campusisjusta90-minutedrivefromMemphis,Tenn.FreezepreviouslyworkedatMemphis(Tenn.)BriarcrestChristian,wherehecoachedformerOleMissstarsMichaelOherandGregHardy.
OleMissnaturallywillpursueMemphisprospectsoftentocapitalizeonitsproximitytothattalent-richarea.MississippiState'scampusisaboutathree-hourdrivefromMemphis.
"There'snoquestionaboutthat,"Harrissaid."WedoconsiderMemphisanin-statesourceforus."
ThekeytothiscompetitioniswhetherthesenewstaffsatOleMissandSouthernMisscanmatchtheevaluationskillsofMullen'screw.
MullenbelievesthatMississippiisanunusualstateinthatthetalentisspreadacrossmanyschools.
Thereareeliteprogramsthatproduceeliteplayers.SouthPanolatoppedthefinalRivalsHighnationalpollin2010andhastwoofthestate'sthreeRivals250prospectsfor2013.ButMississippigenerallydoesn'thaveasmanyhighschooltransfersasothertalent-ladenstates,whichmeansplentyoftalentedprospectscanbefoundinsmallerprograms.
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ClickHeretoviewthisLink."Theonethingthat'sprettyuniquehereisinalotofstates,therearegreatplayersbutalotofthemgototheprimoschools,whereyouknowthisschoolisalwaysgoingtohaveaplayer,"Mullensaid."That'sthetypeofmentalityyoucantakeinotherstates.Orkidswillmovetocertainareasjusttogotoaschool,sotheycanplayatthisbig-nameschool.It'sreallynotthatwayhere.Wehaveplayersfrom1Aschools,2A,3A,4A,5A,6Aandtheacademies.Wehaveplayersfromeverydifferentschoolclassificationonourteam."
MullencitedMississippiStatecornerbackJohnthanBanksasanexample.BankssignedwithMississippiStateafterplayingbaseball,footballandbasketballatMabenEastWebster,whichhasabout400studentsfromgradesseventhrough12.TheschoolwassmallenoughthatBanksplayedvarsityfootballasaneighth-grader.
"He'sgoingtobeafour-yearstarterforus,"Mullensaid."They'reatiny1Aschool.Youdon'tfindthataroundthecountry.Usuallythegoodplayersaren'tstayingintheirlittlesmallschoolsintheirhometowns.Theygotoahigh-profileschool.HereinMississippi,kidsstayintheirhometown."
Moreandmoreoften,they'realsostayingintheirhomestateforcollege.
SteveMegargeeisanationalwriterforRivals.com.Hecanbereachedatsmegargee@rivals.com,andyoucanclickheretofollowhimonTwitter.
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BigGoldNation.com: Southern Miss is happy at QBClick Mississippi State after Nevada HS star QBClick Ole Miss offers in-state quarterbackClick Here to view this Link.Here to view this Link.Here to view this Link.
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