STARKVILLE • Mike Leach and the Mississippi State Bulldogs are currently hitting the recruiting trail hard.
According to the 247 composite rankings, Mississippi State’s 2021 recruiting class is ranked No. 27 in the nation and No. 9 in the Southeastern Conference. If that stand, it will be the highest-ranked recruiting class for Leach in his career as a head coach.
Before now, his highest-ranked recruiting class came in 2006 at Texas Tech, when the signees finished No. 28 in the nation and No. 4 in the Big 12.
While the Bulldogs are putting together a solid recruiting class, Leach says the best is still to come.
“I think there’s a lot of recruiting to go,” Leach said on Tuesday. “It’s a unique circumstance with the rules on visiting and that type of thing being what they are. We’ve got to keep plugging away. I think the best is probably ahead.”
Because of COVID-19, the NCAA has not been allowing in-person visits with recruits. On September 17, the NCAA extended the dead period until January 2021, so coaches are not allowed to meet face-to-face with recruits off campus or do any in-person scouting.
Leach said his staff is working hard, but recruiting will continue to be a complicated process until the rules allow people to meet in-person.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with the rules, the visits and all the rest with recruiting and with regard to contact,” Leach said. “That’s the most powerful thing you have in recruiting is contacts and visits. The strongest resource you have, we don’t have right now.”
Mississippi State’s top recruit in the 2021 class is quarterback Sawyer Robertson. Robertson is a four-star pro-style quarterback out of Lubbock, Texas, and is ranked the No. 10 quarterback in the country.
Leach also has four-star receivers Theodore Knox and Malik Nabers committed.
Mississippi State has had the biggest issues on the current offensive line, but there aren’t many offensive linemen committed in the 2021 class. Three-star linemen Makylan Pounders (Byhalia) and Gabe Cavazos (Lake Cormorant) are both commited.
The only other offensive lineman on the commitment list is East Mississippi CC’s Nick Jones. The Bulldogs picked up a second commitment from East Mississippi on Saturday. Inside linebacker DeShawn Page flipped his commitment from Texas Tech to MSU.
Leach doesn’t worry about the stars, however. Leach said when he looks at a player, he ignores the charts and usually doesn’t even see them unless it is pointed out to him. While talent can sometimes shine through anything, Leach said he is more focused on the toughness of a kid and the commitment to the team that they can bring to the table.
“You look at the talent and the measurables, …” Leach said. “We look at their talent base. We look at what they can do within the scheme that they’re asked to do and how we project them in what we’re going to ask them to do.
“The other thing that I think is often overlooked is toughness and their commitment to playing football. Just because a guy is really talented, toughness and commitment to being a good football player is important.”