Recruiting: Big Focus on Linemen

A cursory glance at Mississippi State’s 2011 commitment list will tell you this: There is a big focus on defensive linemen this year.

As of right now, four of MSU’s 24 commits are listed as defensive ends, and two others are defensive tackles. Just last week, Tupelo DT P.J. Jones committed, and State is also hard after DT Kevin McReynolds, who just got done with an official visit.

McReynolds, a 6-foot-3, 280-pounder from St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., told Scout.com that MSU is one of his four finalists, along with Kansas State, Syracuse and UCLA.

“It’s amazing how coach (Dan) Mullen has turned it around,” he told ESPN.com’s Jamie Newberg. “It’s an atmosphere for success, and I can definitely see myself there.”

Based on the scouring of scouting services I did the other day, MSU has offered scholarships to at least eight other defensive linemen besides McReynolds.

On the surface, this emphasis on the trenches might seem at odds with what Mullen brings to the table. He’s known, of course, for the spread offense and Tim Tebow and scoring lots of points, etc. But he has shown the past two years that he’s just like any coach worth his whistle, in that he knows it all begins up front.

And Mullen’s not one of those coaches who’s hyper-focused on offense and treats defense as an afterthought. In fact, he usually puts greater emphasis on defense and special teams, and it’s those areas that contributed to MSU’s success last year as much as anything. The offense was good, but not great, and much of what it did accomplish can be credited to a strong offensive line.

Speaking of the O-line, four of MSU’s commitments – well, three plus early juco signee Joey Trapp – play that position. State’s losing a couple of good ones in center J.C. Brignone and left tackle Derek Sherrod, and those are the two most crucial losses on offense.

So, put together, 10 of MSU’s 24 current commitments are linemen. That’s 42 percent. The 2010 class had nine (five OL, four DL) of 24, or 38 percent. Those numbers bode well for the future.

ON THE LINKS: Looking back to Sunday’s Journal, I had a recruiting story that examined the challenge of evaluating players from small schools, guys like Walnut’s Shaquille Perry, who committed to MSU last week. … Bulldog basketball commit D.J. Gardner, despite behind hobbled, dropped 45 points on Ripley over the weekend. He told our John Wilbert that he’ll have surgery on his foot after the season. … Here’s a poll question. Go vote.