Starting this weekend, hundreds of college prospects will make their way to Starkville and that will be the scene throughout the country. For Mississippi State, this weekend signals the opening of another summer camp season that has become vital on the recruiting scene.
The Bulldogs' camp season opens this weekend with the first of two 7-on-7 tournaments followed by next week's schedule of individual camps that features different positions on the field. MSU will cap off the June schedule on June 11th before concluding the summer with the ever-popular Big Dawg camp in July.
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen will soon embark on his third summer of hosting camps on campus, and it is easy to hear the excitement in his voice.
"As coaches we love this time of the year, too," said Mullen. "We have great support for our camps and it's a chance for guys to show off their talent and get coached by our coaches. At some camps you don't see many coaches out there but we are very hands-on with our camps. Our coaches run all the drills and we will again have some guest coaches out there, too. And it's that way from the kids that are five years old all the way up to the rising seniors."
But as Mullen added, the Bulldog camps serve more than just the purpose of getting kids on campus.
"With our 7-on-7 camps our costs are very, very low," said Mullen. "It is a great opportunity for high schools coaches to bring their teams in and we always want to have the lowest costs in the country. That way these teams can come in here and get a ton of games. Every coach that brings their team here have told us this camp is the best they go to because of the amount of work they get in. I mean, these coaches are not just bringing in their players to have fun but also to make sure their kids learn the game and learn more about football."
And like each summer, Mullen said him and his staff are always looking for ways to improve their camp atmosphere while keeping the same overall concept.
"We tweak some things here and there," said Mullen. "We always try to talk to high school coaches and the parents to see how to make it better. But there have been no major changes since we've been here. Whether it's parents of five-year olds or coaches at the 7-on-7 camps, they all are happy with the way it works out for them."
Last summer, the camp scene was very beneficial to the Bulldogs regarding the class of 2011. Between the June camps and the Big Dawg Camp, Mullen and company reeled in commitments from such players as Joseph Morrow, Josh Robinson, Daniel Knox, Dak Prescott and James Maiden among others.
While MSU has not yet set a date for the July-based Big Dawg Camp, Mullen said the anticipation for another successful experience is already building.
"We try to bring in the guys we are recruiting and have them all here at one camp setting," noted Mullen. "We understand that everyone's schedules are so busy and that can make it difficult. We have started talking to see how certain dates will fit for this July.
"But to bring in the top prospects in the state and in the Southeast, there was a lot of competition on the field last year. It was unbelievable the amount of talent that came here last summer. The guys have a great time in our stadium and being in that atmosphere. So that is a camp we really like and something we will continue to do in the future."
Taking a glimpse at MSU's efforts for the on-going building for the class of 2012, the Bulldogs enter the camp sessions with a pair of commitments - safety Deonte Evans of McComb, Miss., and offensive lineman Devon Desper of Madison, Miss.
Naturally, that list will grow this summer via the camp scene. And like every year under Mullen, finding those guys in the trenches is again top priority.
"To me and the way it is with this program is it all starts up front on both lines," said Mullen. "We want to keep being physical and control both sides. Besides those positions, there is so much time between now and February and so many things can happen within the program. So you're still not sure until the season gets here and beyond as far as what you need. But like every year, we will recruit the best at each position."
And like Mullen's mindset with the camps, looking for tweaks and improvements in recruiting is always in motion.
"Our strategy is to always look for ways to improve and we don't have to change much," said Mullen. "For us, we are looking for little things to improve with and we have been successful at times in getting the guys we want."
During the spring evaluation period, Mullen has to obviously depend on his assistant coaches for much of the leg work. Most head coaches save their one off-campus visit for late in the year or in January.
"We always depend on assistant coaches," said Mullen. "It does make it hard for head coaches not being able to get out there as much and it's difficult because in the end, we are the ones responsible for all the guys we recruit. I would love to get out there and get personal evaluations of all of our recruits. But the only time to do that is really late in the fall.
"But that goes back to me having great trust in our coaches and trusting they will help get the prospects we want in our program. We want the guys willing to work hard on and off the field and to buy into our team concept. We feel we evaluate different than other schools and we like our way of doing things the Mississippi State way."