During Mississippi State's recent spring drills, there was a steady flow of 2012, and some 2013, prospects taking in the Bulldogs' practice sessions. Naturally, any time coaches can get players on campus it is a big deal, especially for the head coach who has limited off-campus visits with recruits and their families.
But getting them on campus to observe spring practice also serves another purpose and it helps give kids an up-close glimpse of the program.
"It's huge," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "The one big thing for us with recruiting that I want is young men to understand our program. We're a no-nonsense program, what you see is what you get. I want them to understand that before they get here. Them coming to campus allows me to spend time and meet the prospects, meet their families. I get one in-home visit in the entire recruiting process and I get to go see them one time face-to-face.
"So getting them on campus with my opportunity to spend time and really explain our program (is big). Our recruiting coach is going to go through 'this is how we do things', and our position coach is like 'this is how we're going to utilize you'. We're going to show them everything. But in the end the buck stops with me. And when I can sit down face-to-face with a recruit and their family and let them know the expectations of this program, that's invaluable to us."
Giving top prospects such as Magnolia State 2012 defensive linemen Channing Ward and Quay Evans an inside peak at a MSU game-day atmosphere also continued with the Bulldogs' spring game. The Maroon and White game drew over 36,000 fans and hosted some of the top prospects across the Southeast.
"It's a great opportunity for them to see campus life," said Mullen of State's spring game. "They're getting to see people out and about, students out and about, and getting to meet people in the Mississippi State family. Just by walking around you get that feel around campus on spring game day.
"And I think that's huge for them to really to get experience what it is to be a Mississippi State Bulldog, and what a great feeling it is and what a tight-knit family it is from our fan base to our faculty and our student body. All of those thing on our campus in that atmosphere, I think was a great day for them to be here."
Of course, just getting them on campus is only the start of the recruiting process. But it helps to MSU coaches get a better idea of who they are recruiting - on and off the field. As Bulldog fans have witnessed in the past, Mullen isn't as concerned about recruiting rankings because he knows the value his assistant coaches exhibit with their player development.
"To me our program is all about player development," said Mullen. "To me I'm a lot less concerned in how players show up as I am in how they walk out the door. Our job here is whether you show up with a one star or a five-star, whether you're a returning starter before we got here or you never played before we got here, that's completely irrelevant to me.
"Since the day that I got here, since the day that these young guys have been in our program, (my focus is) how have they improved and how are they going to be noticed when they walk out the year compared to when they came in."
Later this summer, Mullen and his coaching staff and players will welcome another group of new faces. The recent 2011 signing class will begin making its way to campus in June and will begin the process of contributing to the Bulldogs. MSU did have four members of the 2011 signing class enroll in January as true freshmen Nick Redmond, Dak Prescott, Johnathan Harris and juco transfer Joey Trapp all experienced spring practice. How quickly they can contribute is still to be determined.
"That's so hard to say," noted Mullen of his incoming signing class. "Obviously any of the guys that enrolled early have a huge advantage. There is no bigger advantage to a young guy coming in, graduating high school and enrolling early and going through spring practice. The guys coming in the fall, we're going to have to wait and see how fast they can pick things up.
"Everything happens a lot faster in training camp so their margin of error is much, much smaller. You might find some small roles for them or they might come in and pick it up fast and then they get a big role. That's so hard to determine."