Sure, Mississippi State’s season doesn’t end until Dec. 30, but there’s one thing the Bulldogs would love to find under their tree Christmas morning — a healthy recruiting class.
Next year, there will be a few faces leaving Starkville that will be sorely missed on the field. Quarterback Dak Prescott, the left side of the offensive line (Rufus Warren and Justin Malone), and a good portion of the secondary (Kendrick Market, Will Redmond and Taveze Calhoun) will all be gone come 2016. Redshirt freshmen backups Nick Fitzgerald and Elijah Staley should do fine in replacing Prescott. They probably won’t equal the Heisman finalist’s output (certainly not in the first year), but both — Fitzgerald in particular — have shown to be more than competent.
However, if Mullen doesn’t put together a solid line to protect them, next year’s quarterbacks will be lucky to make it a full season. The Bulldogs allowed 31 sacks this season — good for 3rd-most in the SEC — and that was with a mobile quarterback known for his ability to avoid the pass rush. Looking even further into the future, the right side of the offensive line will be gone at end of 2016 as well, leaving Mississippi State with potentially only one upperclassman in the trenches. If Mullen can get some reliable young linemen developed next year, the Bulldogs should do fine.
Two star wide receivers could also be moving on at the end of this season. De’Runnya Wilson and Fred Ross, both juniors, had fantastic years in 2015, each finishing in the top six for receiving yards per game in the conference. Wilson also added nine touchdowns (second best in the SEC) and Ross had four. Both could come back in 2016, but it’s likely Wilson (6-foot-5, 215 pounds) will be heading to the NFL, and it wouldn’t be crazy for Ross to follow him instead of waiting around to see if the Bulldogs will have a competent signal caller next year to get him the ball.
Finally, the Bulldogs need a presence at tight end. This year, junior Gus Walley and senior Darion Hutcherson combined for 284 yards and two touchdowns. There were seven other players on Mississippi State’s roster who averaged more yards per game alone. The duo combined wouldn’t rank in the top 50 receivers in the SEC. If Mullen wants to help out a new quarterback next season, giving them big, run-blocking, pass-catching tight ends will certainly help.