The Mississippi State Bulldogs have been improving over the past four seasons, but not much has changed in terms of their competitiveness in the SEC. MSU has been able to beat the bottom half of the league, but can't stay close to the top teams. 2012 was a perfect example of that.
Mississippi State's schedule set up perfectly for a fast start this past season. The Bulldogs beat Auburn, Kentucky, and Tennessee on their way to a No. 11 ranking.
The success didn't last long, as the Bulldogs ran into the meat of their schedule against Alabama, Texas A&M, and LSU. Mississippi State would go on to win just one of its final six games. Now the program is hoping a top-25 recruiting class can bring it closer to the SEC leaders. The only problem being that all those leaders are ahead of them in the recruiting race.
Here are a few players that might help get the Bulldogs to the next level:
Chris Jones: An athletic defensive end who has plenty of upside. Jones is rated as a five-star prospect on both Scout and 247 Sports. Both sites have him as the No. 2 incoming DE. Opinion apparently varies on Jones, as ESPN rates him as four starts and Rivals just three stars. ESPN pegs him as the sixth-best DE in the class.
Ashton Shumpert: Rated four-star athlete by 247 Sports and ESPN, while slated as a four-star running back by Scout. Shumpert could play either running back or safety in college. At 6'2, 205 he already has the build to step in right away and contribute. Running in the area of a 4.5 certainly doesn't hurt either.
Cord Sandberg: A dual-threat quarterback who was recruited and offered by Rich Rodriguez at Arizona, so it is pretty obvious he is expected to do some damage on the ground. Sandberg is rated as four stars by Scout, Rivals, and ESPN. The latter two peg him as a top-10 quarterback prospect.
Jake Thomas: Massive offensive tackle prospect, already measuring at 6'6 and over 300 pounds. Pegged as four stars on Scout and 247 Sports. Scout has him as the 27th-best incoming tackle, while 247 has him at 20th.