They say success breeds success, and that’s especially true in the fickle world of college football recruiting. Exhibit A: Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, who is tapping into a gold mine of it when it comes to finding quarterbacks.
His winning streak began with former 3-star prospect Dak Prescott (maybe you’ve heard of him), who Mullen helped mold into a standout NFL quarterback for the Cowboys. Prescott’s successor, another overlooked gem by the name of Nick Fitzgerald, broke out as a first-time starter under Mullen’s tutelage last season. This past recruiting cycle saw touted 4-star Keytaon Thompson, a true high school star from the highly competitive New Orleans area, sign with the Bulldogs and enroll early.
The newest stud to fall in love with Mississippi State is Jalen Mayden, a 4-star from Sachse (Texas) High School who is the No. 12 dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class. He committed to Mississippi State over Tennessee, Nebraska, Louisville and Baylor on Tuesday night.
Mullen’s track record for development reaches well beyond his years at Starkville, and it had to factor heavily into Mayden’s decision. Mullen most notably coached No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith at Utah and guided Heisman Trophy-winner Tim Tebow at Florida. But, at least to outsiders, the imposing reputation of Urban Meyer cast a shadow over Mullen back then.
Now that Mullen proved he can win by himself, quarterbacks like Mayden are flocking to Starkville.
How huge is Mayden’s commitment? Consider this: Of the top 21-ranked 2018 quarterback prospects, only two are committed to SEC schools — Mayden and Tennessee pledge Adrian Martinez. Only four of those players are uncommitted, too. And here’s Mississippi State, beating out the school that just turned Lamar Jackson into a Heisman winner.
Mississippi State only has two scholarship quarterbacks on its roster — Fitzgerald and Thompson —so Mayden’s pledge helps the numbers situation, as well. By the time Mayden enrolls, Fitzgerald will be a senior and Thompson would be a true sophomore, so the Texas product could redshirt in 2018 and then theoretically take over for Thompson in 2020 if all goes according to plan. That’s in the distant future, though.
The Bulldogs will likely take a second quarterback in this class, but having a 4-star prospect already in the fold is a sure-fire way to help coaches breathe a bit easier.
As of Wednesday, Mississippi State’s class is nine commitments strong — headlined by Mayden and 4-star receiver Malik Heath — and is No. 4 in the SEC, according to the 247Sports composition rankings. Granted, it’s only late May. With the early signing period now in effect, however, the 2018 finish line will creep up on us faster than ever, and Mullen is in good position to be smiling on the other side of it once again. One reason? He could for the first time sign a 4-star quarterback in back-to-back classes.
At this point, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Mullen is the second-longest tenured coach in the SEC, behind only Nick Saban, and his teams have made seven consecutive bowl games. His overall record: 61-42 in eight seasons. It figures that as the wins come, recruiting success is starting to follow. It’ll be interesting to see where Mississippi State goes from here.
I'm proud to announce my commitment to… pic.twitter.com/qopNhHLmBz
— Moose (@mayden_5) May 24, 2017