When Mississippi State signed Martinas Rankin, the nation’s top junior college offensive tackle last year, many believed he would walk right into a starting spot on the Bulldogs line.
That has not been the case.
With the season quickly approaching, Rankin is still locked in a battle at right tackle with returning starter Justin Senior and sixth-year senior Damien Robinson.
“I appreciate that because I didn’t want to be given anything,” Rankin said. “I wanted to work my way from the bottom. That’s what I had to do coming out of high school.”
Rankin left Mendenhall High School in 2013 without any Division I offers and enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. After two years, Rankin’s offer sheet read like a who’s who list among college football’s elite along with his four-star status.
“I always felt like I was a great player, I just had to show the world that I was,” Rankin said.
Rankin narrowed his options down to MSU, Oklahoma and Ole Miss and chose to remain a Bulldog in December. After nearly ninth months in Starkville, the 6-foot-5, 302-pounder appreciates the way State’s coaching staff honestly recruited him.
“It’s been great being here and is what I thought it was,” Rankin said. “They didn’t tell me any lies in recruiting me. They told me it was going to be hard and it hasn’t been anything short of that.”
Rankin started the spring on the third team while he learned the plays and terminology of the Bulldogs’ offensive system. He also had to adjust to the speed and strength of the defenders he faced on a daily basis in practice.
“It’s like going from a pond to an ocean,” Rankin said. “You’re going from playing against one or two good players every week to seeing them every day and every play. It was definitely good to go through the spring because it was kind of a growing period for me. I’m a couple of steps ahead now than I was in the spring.”
Rankin moved up the depth chart by the end of spring and is continuing that climb in fall camp.
But with the numbers the Bulldogs have at right tackle, Rankin has the luxury to fully adapt to the new level of competition instead of pushing him into a starter’s role the way Charles Siddoway was coming out of junior college in 2012.
“He’s allowed to develop and get on the field at the time he’s ready,” said MSU coach Dan Mullen. “We’re not forced to throw him out there on the field. We have pretty high expectations for him, and I think that he’s going to have a very good career for us.”