By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Dan Mullen values in-state recruits, but he’s more than willing to reach beyond Mississippi’s borders to bulk up his roster.
Mississippi State added 17 players to its 2013 football class on national signing day, bringing its total to 21; four players enrolled at MSU in January. Of the 21, 13 come from outside the state.
The biggest catch was a Mississippi kid, Houston defensive end Chris Jones, a consensus five-star prospect who 247Sports.com ranks as the No. 2 recruit in the country. The Daily Journal defensive player of the year committed to MSU in June but had been considering Ole Miss the last couple of weeks.
Mullen said he had no worries about Jones flipping.
“All along he said, ‘Hey, coach, I’m coming to be a Bulldog.’ And I trusted him from Day 1, and he never wavered on that with me,” Mullen said.
Among the other in-state signees were Itawamba AHS running back Ashton Shumpert, Columbus offensive lineman Jake Thomas and Starkville cornerback Gabe Myles.
Overall, Mullen said he was pleased with MSU’s in-state haul.
“I think all the other schools in the state are making a much more concerted effort to recruit the state as well,” he said. “I think that’s fantastic. It shows, we’ve had success doing it, and so I guess imitation’s a great form of flattery to come and say, hey, let’s try to get more kids from the state of Mississippi.
“But I also think the success that we’ve had over the last couple of years has certainly helped give us a lot better name recognition throughout really the Southeast.”
One of MSU’s biggest signees is Fred Ross, a high school receiver out of Tyler, Texas. He was an Oklahoma State commit up until Tuesday night, when he switched to the Bulldogs.
Ross is a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder who was named a Parade All-American after last season.
“When he took the official visit out here and his family came here, he felt how much he fit in with the guys here, I think he knew this was the place for him,” Mullen said. “There was a lot of celebrating for us when he told us he was coming.”
Both quarterbacks in this class are from outside the state. Cord Sandberg hails from Bradenton, Fla., while Damian Williams is from Metairie, La. Both are dual-threat QBs who should fit well into Mullen’s spread offense.
Two MSU commits who did not sign were defensive ends Ulric Jones and Trent Simpson, both from Oxford, Ala. Jones is expected to grayshirt – he’d be added as a scholarship player next January – while Jones appears to be headed the junior college route.