November 21, 2012 4:55:13 PM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- While he is convinced it is the most important game of the season, Dan Mullen isn't convinced the winner of the annual Egg Bowl game parlays that into an advantage in recruiting.
The Mississippi State University football coach doesn't think his 3-0 record against the University of Mississippi has anything to do with the Bulldogs' ability to recruit some of the state's top players in the past two years.
Mullen said he hasn't drawn direct conclusions about the result of the Egg Bowl and how it affects the decision-making process of state prospects who have selected MSU over Ole Miss and the University of Southern Mississippi.
"I think a lot of kids know what they're looking for in a school," Mullen said. "Knowing what the values are of the football program, how they want to be developed, how the program runs, what the community and the town is like, and whether that fits who they are seem to be the most important aspects, so I don't know that the outcome of this game always determines any of that."
One reason the result of the Egg Bowl doesn't appear to impact the recruiting philosophies of MSU and Ole Miss is both programs recruit from different pools. Seventy-two members, or 62 percent, of MSU's 116-man preseason roster are from the state of Mississippi. Mullen believes dominating the recruiting battle in the state of Mississippi is the only way for MSU to get to the Southeastern Championship Game in Atlanta.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze started his tenure in Oxford with only 47 members, or 37.9 percent, of his 124-man roster in the media guide from Mississippi. The Rebels had more players on their preseason roster from the states of Florida, Georgia, Texas, and Tennessee than from Mississippi.
"It gives them bragging rights that maybe is heard by the guy that is in between both of them when all those high school kids get together," Mullen said.
While Freeze claimed the game's importance hadn't registered with him early on, he said the result of the Egg Bowl is critical to the success he expects to have on National Signing Day in February when his first full class at Ole Miss is official.
"I have seen it where the team that doesn't win this game can convince players to join them to be the difference-makers, but it's hard," Freeze said. "In this rivalry game, it is important no doubt and will make the difference in some kids' minds. I've also seen it where a few key kids want to come and play early and help change the outcome of the year before. I do think it would help in recruiting kids leaning towards other schools."
According to the Rivals.com's rankings of the top 10 prospects in Mississippi, MSU has received five verbal commitments and is in the running for two uncommitted players. The Bulldogs could sign 11 of 17 players from the state.
"If they get everybody that's uncommitted right now, then it's the best class of in-state talent to MSU since that (2009) class of Tyler Russell, Banks, LaDarius Perkins, Fletcher Cox," 247Sports.com recruiting reporter Paul Jones said.
Kailo Moore, a four-star running back from West Bolivar High School in Rosedale, told The Dispatch in July he felt the pressure from coaches and from fans after he announced he was going to attend MSU. Moore is still being recruited by other schools, including Ole Miss. He said the result of the rivalry game wasn't a priority.
MSU also has extended its recruiting into areas of the state that have been considered Ole Miss' territories like Senatobia and Tupelo to get linebacker Cam Lawrence and wide receiver Chad Bumphis.
Beyond recruiting for one season, Mullen believes the Egg Bowl will continue to be an integral piece of MSU's ability to be the dominant football program in the state.
"I think the fan base makes you aware of it," Mullen said. "It's pretty clear cut for us who our big rivalry team is here. I think our administration understands that, our student body, our fan base, everyone in the state of Mississippi understands that, so you get made aware of it. As a first-year coach if you don't know it coming in, or don't know how important or haven't been involved in big rivalry games before, they educate you very quickly."