June 9, 2014 11:24:30 AM
STARKVILLE -- Malik Dear helped the Mississippi State football team salvage what could have been one of its worst recruiting weekends in a long time.
After MSU lost verbal commitments to Ole Miss, a phone call Sunday from Dear, a standout at Murrah High School, to MSU coach Dan Mullen changed everything.
Dear, a 5-foot-9, 210-pounder, gave Mullen a verbal commitment following a 7-on-7 football tournament in Starkville. He is seen as a possible replacement for Jameon Lewis at slot receiver.
At Murrah, Dear plays Wildcat quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. MSU is expected to use Dear in a variety of roles, particularly how Mullen utilized Percy Harvin in his national championship winning offense at Florida.
"I committed to Mississippi State because of the way they made me feel every time I went over there," Dear told Scout.com. "They just made me feel like it was the right time. I am so glad to get this over with. This is a lot off of my shoulders."
Dear had offers from Ole Miss, Southern Mississippi, LSU, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas. He had 1,893 yards and 26 touchdowns rushing, passing and receiving in 2013.
The Bulldogs also received verbal commitments last week from three-star players Nick Tiano (quarterback), Maurice Smitherman (defensive back), Kendell Jones (defensive end), and Harrison Moon (offensive lineman).
MSU has the No. 6 recruiting class nationally, according to 247Sports.com. Dear's commitment pushed that ranking up four spots.
The regretful aspect of the weekend was losing wide receiver Jay Johnson and safety Armani Linton. Johnson and Linton visited Ole Miss last weekend. According to 247Sports.com, Bruce High's Johnson is listed as a four-star athlete, while Walnut High's Linton is a three-star safety.
Johnson received an offer from Ole Miss and visited the Rebels for their Junior Day on Feb. 1. He took unofficial visits to Florida State and Auburn in the spring, but Southern Mississippi was his only other offer. Johnson rushed for 561 yards on 45 carries and four touchdowns. He also had 23 receptions for 281 yards and three touchdowns.
Linton, a 6-foot-3 and 195-pounder, changed his mind late Friday night after meeting with Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.
"It's the coaches," Linton told Rebelgrove.com. "They treat me like family, like I'm already a freshman here. It's a great feeling when I come here. It's a great atmosphere when you come here."
Ole Miss' 2015 recruiting class, which has nine commitments, is 22nd in the country. The Rebels moved up nine spots with the addition of Johnson and Linton.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.