Mississippi State brought in 28 members of its 2015 signing class on Wednesday which ranked 16th nationally.
Here are a few evaluations I had of the class.
Top signee – Linebacker Leo Lewis, Brookhaven
I believe Lewis has the potential to be the centerpiece for Manny Diaz’s defense at mike linebacker. Lewis was rated the nation’s top inside linebacker and but won’t be forced onto the field right away. The Bulldogs do have depth at the position but a player of Lewis’ caliber is rare and he is fully capable of being a multi-year starter and leading the team in tackles. He is already a hit among the fan base having spurned SEC West rivals LSU, Ole Miss and Alabama for his signature.
Most valuable offensive signee – wide receiver Donald Gray, Copiah-Lincoln Community College
MSU top offensive signee is already on campus. Gray inked with the Bulldogs two years ago out of Memphis, Tenn., but failed to qualify academically. He redshirted his initial season at Co-Lin and was an All-American in his second. Gray has three years of eligibility left and will be a dangerous weapon for State in the slot replacing Jameon Lewis.
Most valuable defensive signee – safety Jamal Peters, Bassfield
Peters not only provides the Bulldogs with a playmaker in the secondary, he also does so at a position of need at safety. With Jay Hughes and Justin Cox gone and Kendrick Market coming off an Achilles injury, Peters has an opportunity to play early. He already has the size, speed and athleticism to play in the SEC but will have to make the transition from playing in class 2A into the nation’s toughest conference. Once he makes that adjustment, expect his start to shine bright.
Immediate impact – offensive tackle Martinas Rankin – Gulf Coast Community College
Mississippi State must replace three starters along its offensive line. Having Rankin already enrolled should alleviate the left tackle vacancy. Rankin was ranked the nation’s top JUCO offensive tackle and was highly coveted by colleges around the country. He will be able to learn the offense over the spring and summer and should be ready to take the field as a starter by the fall.
Sleeper – safety Mark McLaurin, Collins
The Bulldogs have taken pride and have a strong track record of developing underrated talents such as Johnthan Banks and Benardrick McKinney on its defense. I suspect McLaurin will be the next such sleeper to emerge from the 2015 class. I really like his size and athleticism at 6-foot-2, 210-pounds. He too will have to make the transition from a small high school but will be a valuable asset in the secondary.
Top recruiter – Tony Hughes
No surprise here. Hughes has been working the state of Mississippi like no other coach the last decade or so and has the track record to prove it. The soft-spoken Hughes is well respected by his peers, high school coaches, parents and prospects. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone to say something negative about him. Hughes knows how to find overlooked talent in the rural pockets of the state and has been a vital part of turning MSU’s program around.