Now that spring practice has officially started in the SEC, we figured we would take a page out of the Big Ten blog's book and look at each SEC program to determine the exact state of each by using recent performance, win-loss trends, coaching and current and future personnel as indicators.
Next up: Mississippi State
2015 record: 9-4 (4-4 SEC)
Three-year record: 26-13
Coaching situation: Continually changing. Coaching staffs are bound to experience turnover, but at Mississippi State the only constants since Dan Mullen took over the program in 2008 are Mullen himself, plus offensive line coach John Hevesy, tight ends coach Scott Sallach and running backs coach Greg Knox. Everyone else has moved on. The defensive staff, in particular, has become a revolving door with three coordinators in three years. Peter Sirmon was a nice addition there this offseason, but without a single holdover on his staff from the previous season, he has a lot of work ahead of him.
Roster situation: In transition. On the whole, Mullen has bolstered the roster through recruiting the last two years. But there’s no escaping the loss of quarterback Dak Prescott. The former Heisman Trophy finalist was a starter for two years in which he became unquestionably the most successful player in the program’s history. With a few other key cogs also headed to the NFL -- wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson, defensive lineman Chris Jones and cornerback Will Redmond among them -- Mullen is going to have to call on some young talent. At quarterbacks, there’s Nick Fitzgerald, Elijah Staley and Damian Williams to choose from. Staley is the most raw prospect of the group, but has the size and dual-threat ability that Mullen so covets.
Recruiting situation: Quietly improving. Mississippi State is always going to have a hard time recruiting when it's sandwiched between two perennial powers in Alabama and LSU. With Ole Miss recruiting like they have under coach Hugh Freeze, it makes the situation even more tenuous. But somehow Mullen and his staff have convinced some big names to come to Starkville. Last year, it was No. 2-rated safety Jamal Peters and No. 2-rated inside linebacker Leo Lewis. This year it was four-star defensive end Jeffery Simmons, who was thought to be heading to either Alabama or Ole Miss. But looking ahead, don’t underestimate the loss of recruiting coordinator Tony Hughes, who left to become head coach at Jackson State. Hughes has worked for a lifetime in the state of Mississippi and had connections that won’t easily be replaced by Mullen’s new recruiting coordinator Terrell Buckley.
Trajectory: Down. Mullen has avoided the dreaded task of rebuilding for some time now, but here it is at his doorstep. And it’s not just the Grand Canyon-sized shoes of Prescott that must be filled. In addition to needing to find a playmaker at receiver to replace Wilson’s 19 touchdowns the last two seasons, the offensive line and running game need major overhauls. Even the defense has question marks with a new staff and a new set of playmakers about to take over. With so much up in the air, it’s difficult to imagine Mississippi State competing with Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss in the West.