With the SEC season less than three months away, here’s a look at the potential impact freshmen for each team. Recruiting rankings are based on the 247Sports Composite which calculates the average of all four major recruiting websites (247Sports, Rivals, ESPN and Scout.)
10-3 (6-2 SEC); 2nd SEC West
2015 Team Ranking
National Rank No. 18
SEC Rank: No. 8
Top Incoming Prospects
- S Jamal Peters- 4-star, Bassfield (Bassfield, MS), 6-1.5, 206 lbs, No. 3 S, No. 58 overall
- ILB Leo Lewis- 4-star, Brookhaven (Brookhaven, MS), 6-3, 225 lbs, No. 1 ILB, No. 63 overall
- SDE Fletcher Adams- 4-star, Brandon (Brandon, MS), 6-3, 260 lbs, No. 12 SDE, No. 173 overall
- WR Donald Gray- 4-star, Copiah-Lincoln C.C. (Wesson, MS), 5-9, 185 lbs, No. 1 JUCO WR, No. 6 JUCO overall
- OT Martinas Rankin- 4-star, Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. (Perkinston, MS), 6-5, 300 lbs, No. 1 JUCO OT, No. 8 JUCO overall
Mississippi State enjoyed its most successful season in school history. The Bulldogs ranked No. 1 overall for several consecutive weeks before ending their season at No. 11 overall.
However, if they hope to repeat as a contender, they will need to successfully replace a conference leading 15 starters. Fortunately, Mississippi State parlayed its success into its best recruiting class in school history. Sure, the No. 8 ranked class in the conference may not sound like much, but its a huge step for a program that was once lucky to crack the top-50 national rankings.
The Bulldogs signed seven four-star prospects, the most in school history. Uncharacteristically, the team focused on the surplus of junior college talent in the Magnolia State including the nation’s top wide receiver, offensive tackle, No. 2 outside linebacker and No. 5 strongside defensive end.
Donald Gray is expected to make an immediate impact during his first season in Starkville. While Dak Prescott is projected as the conference’s top quarterback, he will be without several top targets including Jameon Lewis and Malcolm Johnson.
Gray recorded 55 receptions for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns for Copiah-Lincoln Community College. The 5-9, 185-pound receiver provides an experienced option for Prescott, but must adjust to SEC defenses before earning consideration as an elite playmaker.
Martinas Rankin also brings an added advantage to Mississippi State’s offense. The 6-5, 300-pound lineman ranked as the No. 1 JUCO offensive tackle in 2015 and should make an immediate impact in Starkville as the Bulldogs look to replace three former starters on the o-line.
Mississippi State will also have open spots on defense, including defensive end after the departure of sack leader Preston Smith. While senior Ryan Brown is projected to start, several 2015 signees could make a case for playing time.
Four-star Fletcher Adams ranks as the nation’s No. 12 strongside defensive end prospect, although he may make a switch to defensive tackle. Jonathan Calvin ranked as the No. 5 JUCO SDE and could have the edge in experience should the two players compete for the same position.
Mississippi State’s biggest flaw was its passing defense. The Bulldogs allowed the most passing yards in the SEC last year and now face the departures of three former starters.
Freshman safety Jamal Peters is the team’s top prospect in 2015. He will be a favorite to compete for playing time after enrolling earlier this month.
“Timing in life can mean a lot of great things,” head coach Dan Mullen told the Clarion Ledger. “The opportunity obviously is (Peters) with his special talent back there in the secondary, but also a huge need there for us at that position.”
Mississippi State faces a tough challenge as it looks to repeat its most successful season in school history. But the Bulldogs’ 2015 class provides optimism for the program moving forward and could be the foundation for a bright future.