Mississippi State hit the recruiting trail early this year and brought in three commitments from a school in its early stages of existence. The team – Fort Bend Marshall – only won three games last year and many Bulldog fans were leery about what they had received. "How can a team with three wins have that many good players?" they would ask after finding that three other players from that team had also made commitments. Coach Michael O'Guin explains just how that situation has unfolded.
"The problem last year was discipline and the kids didn't buy into what we were trying to do," he began. "We got the job late in the spring, in April. The previous coach that had been here had been with them since they were freshmen at Hightower. He came over from Hightower.
"The seniors had been with him then he resigned unexpectedly in April and we didn't have a spring. We put in a new defense; there were a lot of changes we put in when we got back in August and the kids never bought in.
"This group of seniors from the time they were freshmen, we always said that this was going to be a special group and would get us to where we wanted to be which was the playoffs and hopefully make a nice run in the playoffs. This group of seniors we have, they behave well in school, in the community, they all have good grades and they just exercise self-discipline."
That self-discipline has resulted in a turn-around that everyone around the huge football state of Texas has noticed. After winning a total of only three games last year, they are now 6-0 this year and lead the Greater Houston Area in offense.
"We have the third-ranked defense in our conference," O'Guin added. "We are just 12 yards out of second. We gave up seven points last week and 14 the week before.
"We are leading the district, the only one in the conference still undefeated. We are ranked No. 11 in Houston area, and ranked as high as No. 15 in the state in 5A and are now ranked in the AP poll. A poll is a poll, but that is the one the coaches look at.
"We are averaging 35, 36 points a game and are only giving up 16 points a game. Our biggest asset is speed. We don't have a bunch of 300 pounders, but we have a bunch of guys anywhere from 195 to 270. All of our skill guys are running in the mid to low 4.5s.
"Anything we ask them to do, they do. They play for each other instead of themselves. They find that playing for the team is more important than playing for individuals. If we were to ask our leading receiver this week to line up and play guard, he would play guard, because he knows that is what it will take.
"We really worked them hard in the off season and made them make that decision. "Do you want to stay or do you want to quit? We are not going to dislike you if you quit, but the guys that are going to make it through this off-season are going to be a better season next year."
And a better season it has begun. Helping lead the way are all three of the Bulldog commitments.
"Brandon Cooper has five sacks and 35 unassisted tackles." he commented on his left defensive end. "Marcus Washington has 20 tackles and two interceptions.
"Chris Herrera has played extremely well. He's graded out over 90 percent every week and he's been our offensive lineman of the week three times."
Herrera is playing offensive tackle this year solely, a move over from the tight end slot.
"Chris is athletic," O'Guin explained. "He ran the high hurdles all through last year, the 110 hurdles, and always played athlete. He is just an athlete trapped in a big man's body. He also punts and kicks off.
"Chris was being heavily recruited as a tight end and we told him, we don't need you playing tight end because we are running the spread. He is 6-4 and 275. He needed to be paying tackle. He went in hasn't complained and has done an outstanding job."
All three Bulldog commitments have already taken their official visit to Mississippi State and that visit just reaffirmed their decision.
"They all took their official visits to Mississippi State and from what I have been hearing they are all solid commitments," O'Guin commented. "They haven't been telling me they are wavering. The thing that State has going for them is that they really like the staff. When they went they all came back with favorable impressions and they all said that the kids on the Mississippi State team were a lot like them in that they were together. They were close."
While the season has been a success so far this year, the big test will be this weekend. Fort Bend Marshall faces Hightower, the school they split from just a few years ago, so the players from each team are very familiar with each other.
"This is the measuring stick in the area," O'Guin said. "We split from their school so it is a big game at 7:30 Friday. It is just like Mississippi State playing Mississippi. You got to win that one."