Dan Mullen has a plan to build the Mississippi State football program into a winner.
The first-year coach said successful recruiting will help the Bulldogs implement that plan and help them return to postseason bowl games, something they have done once (Liberty Bowl, 2007) in the past five years.
Mullen hopes fans can see positive signs from his first signing class, which includes freshman wide receivers Chad Bumphis and Brandon Heavens and defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd.
“I was really pleased with our in-state recruiting class last year,” Mullen said. “We have to have that same type of in-state recruiting success this year. When we do that, we”re going to start building a solid foundation for our football program.”
Mullen went the junior-college route to sign wide receiver Leon Berry (East Mississippi Community College), kicker Sean Brauchle (Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C.), punter Heath Hutchins (Itawamba C.C.), defensive end Pernell McPhee (ICC), linebacker Chris White (MGCCC), and defensive back Maurice Langston (East Central C.C.).
“The benefit of recruiting (junior college players) is we”re not flying across the country to go visit prospects,” Mullen said. “We can drive to see them and they can drive to see us. By pure geography, we”re going to recruit junior college players because of our location and great junior college system in the state.”
Mullen hopes the opportunities for winning seasons and bowl appearances increase as he and his staff add junior college players and some of the state”s top high school talent. He knows playing in bowl games also helps programs grow.
“You get extra practices and the young guys (can) develop more and (it) allows you to build for the future,” Mullen said. “Those are things we have to do and focus on as a staff.”
The Bulldogs are last in the Southeastern Conference since 2004 with a 22-39 record. MSU hasn”t been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 in that span.
In the past 10 years (1999-2008), the Bulldogs are 48-72 with three bowl appearances and two AP Top 25 appearances. Vanderbilt is the only SEC team with a poorer winning percentage.
Despite those numbers, MSU has sold more than 41,000 season tickets, a school record.
To keep those fans happy and coming to the games, Mullen knows what he has to do.
“The best way to change the perception of the fans is to win,” Mullen said. “If we start winning games, they”re going to start believing and we”ll have all their support.”
n Langston suspension lifted: Langston, who entered a deferred guilty plea agreement in Forrest County to a misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance from his February arrest, rejoined the team this week.
The felony “intent to distribute” charge has been dropped.
Mullen said in a statement Wednesday that Langston will remain on probation, but didn”t indicate when he would be used in a game. Langston participated in Wednesday”s practice.
“Since the incident more than six months ago, Maurice has done everything our football team and athletic department have asked of him, even while he has not been allowed to participate in any team functions, practices or workouts,” Mullen said.
Langston remained in school through the suspension.
“He has worked out on his own and continues to work to fulfill every phase of his discipline as it relates to the football team and athletic department,” Mullen said. “We”re happy to have Maurice back and look forward to him making a positive impact on this football team, the university and this community.”