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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Willie Gay stays home, Bulldogs grab No. 24 recruiting class

Dalton Middleton

Willie Gay picks Mississippi State over Ole Miss, LSU and Michigan. The 4-star linebacker is the best rated recruit in this class.

Head football coach Dan Mullen brought in his ninth recruiting class at Mississippi State Univeristy on Wednesday as 11 high school students signed and faxed their National Letter of Intent to MSU.

MSU signed 24 players total in this year’s class, however, only 11 of those players signed today because 13 of them enrolled at MSU in January. The class finished at 24th according to’s composite rating, which is a combination of all the major recruiting sites’ ratings. 

“We had a Top-25 recruiting class and hopefully they pan out that way too,” Mullen said. “Hopefully they end up being a Top-25 football team.”

Coach Mullen’s top recruit was just a short drive down Highway 12 with Willie Gay, a 6-1, 223-pound linebacker from Starkville High School. Gay is a 4-star prospect and the highest rated recruit in MSU’s class, according to The battle for Gay was not easy for MSU. Gay committed to Ole Miss last summer before decommitting in October.

 It then became a three-way battle between MSU, LSU, and Michigan. Gay said after signing with MSU he was a silent commit to LSU for a week after his official visit on January 20th. He told LSU head coach Ed Orgeron via text Tuesday night he would be flipping to MSU. 

Gay said he made his decision on Sunday night. After announcing his decision, he told the media how he made it.

“I put LSU, Michigan, and State all beside each other and I thought where I really wanted to be, where I would get the chance to play early and Mississippi State won,” Gay said. 

MSU also secured their running back-quarterback combo of the future in 4-stars Kylin Hill and Keytaon Thompson. Thompson, a 6-4, 220-pound dual-threat quarterback out of Landry-Walker High School in New Orleans, Louisiana, is one of 13 players who enrolled in January. In his senior season of high school, Thompson threw the ball 329 times, completing 197 of those for 3,924 yards and 46 passing touchdowns. He ran the ball 148 times for 1,429 yards and 26 rushing touchdowns. 

Mullen raved about Thompson at his National Signing Day wrap-up press conference.

“He came here because he knows that we know how to develop quarterbacks, even though early on he wasn’t as highly recruited as a lot of guys around the country,” Mullen said. “He ended up having a spectacular senior year which didn’t surprise me at all because I knew the type of player that he was when he committed to us a long time ago”

Hill, a 5-11, 210-pound running back out of Columbus High School, is the No. 13 ranked running back in the nation by Hill rushed the ball 176 time his senior year for 1,743 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns. Mullen called Hill a top priority.

“I thought when we looked at him that he was one of the best, if not the best, running back in the country,” Mullen said. “He brings the physical ability to run the ball between the tackles and has breakaway speed when he gets into the second level.”

The most interesting thing about this class is that MSU had more players enroll in January than sign on national signing day, with 13 players enrolling in January, including nine players from junior college. Only four of the early enrollees are from the high school level. 

“It just played out that way,” Mullen said. “I think a lot of people will question was it a plan to have this? We don’t ever have a set number of junior college players or high school players.”

Mullen once again emphasized the state of Mississippi. Of the 24 players Mullen signed, 12 are from the Mississippi. This continued a trend Mullen established when he first came to MSU. He has always emphasized getting players from Mississippi. 

“The first thing is, let’s look at home,” Mullen said. “Let’s look at great players in the state of Mississippi and there were a bunch of guys there.”

Mullen and his staff have brought in another solid recruiting class, something necessary to compete in the SEC. When Mullen first got to MSU, fans simply wanted a bowl, but now with rising expectations, Mullen has to recruit well. 

“Eight years ago when I came here, the talk was that I want to build a program that has really high expectations,” Mullen said. “We certainly have been able to do that.”

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Willie Gay stays home, Bulldogs grab No. 24 recruiting class