A new class of "Bullpups" officially joined the Mississippi State University family today, as 22 players signed national letters of intent to continue their education and athletic careers at MSU.
Of those 22 new players, 11 are from Mississippi, three from Alabama, two from Florida and Tennessee and one from Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Fourteen of the 22 players also signed on the December signing day, but the other eight signed Wednesday, rounding out the 2019 recruiting class.
MSU head coach Joe Moorhead said their biggest goal with this class was to fill positional needs left open by graduates. The two biggest groups of signees were the defensive backs with six, and offensive line had five.
“When you look through, there’s always a delicate balance in roster management and recruiting, in making sure that you’re addressing positional needs,” Moorhead said. “While at the same time, recruiting the best available players regardless of position. I think that we did a good job along those lines.”
The team only filled 22 of the new 25 scholarships allowed, but Moorhead said they made a conscious decision as a staff in their approach because of the way the new transfer portal or system is working.
“With the way recruiting is going now, and the availability of players down the road through the transfer portal, we felt it probably benefited us to have a couple left,” Moorhead said. “If we were able to find a guy with experience down the road who could help us address one of our glaring positional needs.”
One of the new signees who will have a chance to come in and make almost an immediate impact on the team is Garrett Schrader, freshman quarterback from Charlotte, North Carolina, as he is ranked No. 6 in the country at his position by ESPN. Schrader started classes at MSU in January, and Moorhead said he is excited to see him compete once spring ball starts.
“He could have gone to play at just about anywhere in the country,” Moorhead said. “He’s a mid-year enrollee and doing a real nice job for us right now. I’m excited to see him in the spring.”
MSU added a veteran running back to join the likes of Aeris Williams, a senior from West Point, and Kylin Hill, a junior from Columbus, in Kareem Walker, a transfer junior from Irvington, New Jersey, who Moorhead said is one of the best running backs in the country.
“I’ve known him since his days in New Jersey. He kind of took the path from there to Ann Arbor, to Kansas and now here,” Moorhead said. “I believe he was the No. 2 or 3 ranked running back in the country when he came out of high school. He’s done a good job there, and I’m excited to see a more mature and seasoned version of him.”
According to 24/7 Sports, MSU is ranked 24th in the nation with this signing class. Moorhead said recruitment rankings are more of a barometer or indication of how well you are doing recruiting than anything else.
“Certainly, there is a correlation between recruitment ranking and success, as much as you want to admit or not admit,” Moorhead said. “For us to be in the top 25 now for the second straight year, with a number of four- and five-star guys we added, in addition to some under-the-radar prospects, I think it’s a good piece of information. Those guys work hard, and I think they do a good job with it.”
This year was the first year of an early signing period for college football, as 14 of MSU’s recruits signed early in December. Moorhead said this was great because it meant the kids were committed and recruiting was over for them, but the real question arises when they choose not to sign early.
“Are they taking other visits to confirm their commitment to the school, or are they taking other visits to enjoy the experience, for lack of a better term?” Moorhead said. “That is always a delicate balance, and you are never really quite sure. I don’t know if there is a greater or correct answer to it, but it is something that merits more discussion by our staff moving forward. I don’t know if you will ever have the right answer because it is such a fluid situation. No two kids’ situations are alike.”
MSU benefited from one player showing patience and not signing early, as they were able to snag Dylan Lawrence, an incoming freshman cornerback from George County, as he signed on the last possible day.
“We had been in contact with Dylan (Lawrence), and he had always been around,” Moorhead said. “He had been at a bunch of games and is a guy that grew up as a State fan wanting to be here. There is a part of me that that means something to. He has the ability. He has the upside. He is another one of those guys that is under the radar.”
One of the players who signed late was Nathan Pickering, defensive tackle from Mount Olive. Moorhead said he had a tremendous impact on social media even though he was not officially at State yet, he was still very committed to the success of the program.
“Nathan (Pickering) always had a firm belief in myself, our defensive staff, our university and our football program,” Moorhead said. “For him to be a guy that could have gone just about anywhere in the country if he wanted to, through thick and thin, high and low, through all the changes, he remained steadfast and firm in his commitment to us.”
The new Bulldogs who are currently enrolled will join the upperclassmen on March 5 as they report for spring football. The Maroon and White game will be played on April 13 at Davis Wade Stadium.