Mississippi’s finest: MSU, Ole Miss have battle on their hands for rich 2019 in-state recruiting class

Mississippi-Mississippi State-Dan Mullen-Hugh Freeze

The states where SEC schools reside are home to some of the best recruiting grounds in the country, headlined by the prospect-rich likes of Texas, Florida and Georgia. Usually, we don’t include Mississippi in that conversation, but next year will mark a major exception.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State have some serious in-state talent at their disposal in the Class of 2019. For only the second time since 2011, the Magnolia State will have nine recruits with at least a 4-star rating, including a pair of 5-star prospects, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. And, as coaches slowly begin shifting their focus to the 2019 class, the number of blue-chip recruits could be even higher by next spring.

Headlining the class are 5-star outside linebacker Nakobe Dean (Horn Lake) and 5-star defensive end Nathan Pickering. They already have offers from at least six schools each, including Ole Miss and Mississippi State, and 247Sports has both ranked top-5 nationally at their respective positions.

Rounding out the list of Mississippi blue-chippers are defensive end Charles Moore, running back Jerrion Ealy, receiver Dannis Jackson, defensive end Byron Young, tackle Brandon Cunningham, athlete Diwun Black and athlete Brandon Turnage, an Oxford native. Georgia, LSU, Louisville and Tennessee have all offered Turnage.

The Rebels and Bulldogs have gotten an early crack at recruiting this elite top 10. But a big question looms: How stiff will the competition be in 2019?

When it comes to keeping top talent at home, the past couple recruiting cycles haven’t been so kind to the in-state powers.

In 2017, four of the top-12 ranked recruits signed with out-of-state programs; 4-stars Nigel Knott, Raekwon Davis and Scott Lashley all landed at Alabama. Then in 2017, five of the top 8 recruits left Mississippi, including the state’s No. 1 prospect Cam Akers (Florida State). No more than two of the state’s top-10 recruits left the state in any of the previous six classes (2010-15).

For Ole Miss and Mississippi State, it’s a somewhat troubling trend, albeit one that can be partly attributed to the NCAA’s months-long investigation of the Rebels’ football program. Coach Hugh Freeze went so far as to characterize his 2017 signing class, ranked No. 12 in the SEC, as a “penalty.”

MSU finds itself in a much better position. The Bulldogs signed 5-star Jeffery Simmons in 2016, and added local stars Willie Gay and Kyrin Hill this offseason. They’ve also cleaned up at the JUCO level while making forays into Georgia, Louisiana and Texas for their quarterbacks — Nick Fitzgerald, Keytaon Thompson and 2018 commit Jalen Mayden, respectively.

With Ole Miss still mired in murky waters, will coach Dan Mullen’s staff be able to take advantage? LSU, Alabama, Louisville and even Tennessee have swiped recruits from Mississippi in recent years.

Conversely, will Freeze keep his job and find the closure he seeks from the NCAA? And if so, can he get the Rebels recruiting at an elite level again?

Time will tell, but one thing’s for sure: the Magnolia State will host some fierce recruiting battles in 2019.

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Alec Shirkey – SEC Country