Mississippi State's picks up hometown talent on signing day

Mississippi State stayed close to home to pick up one of its most important signees - linebacker Willie Gay.

The 6-foot-1, 223-pounder is from Starkville High School, which is only a couple miles from Mississippi State's campus. He signed with the Bulldogs on Wednesday and should help solidify a defense that already has young stars in defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons and linebacker Leo Lewis.

''Guys coming in today I couldn't be happier about,'' Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. ''To have Willie Gay and (Columbus, Mississippi, running back) Kylin Hill stay at home is great. They want to make their hometown proud and you could see how excited everyone was at their high school today when they announced.''

Mullen signed a class that includes nine players from junior colleges and all of them have already enrolled. The class was ranked No. 24 in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

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Other things to know:

Top 25 Class: Yes

Best in class: Gay, LB, Starkville, Mississippi. The Bulldogs really wanted to land the hometown four-star prospect and got it done on Wednesday. He's rated as the No. 3 outside linebacker prospect according to the 247Sports Composite.

Best of the rest: Hill, QB Keytaon Thompson. The Bulldogs hope they landed some of their playmakers of the future in the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Hill and 6-foot-4, 220-pound Thompson.

Late addition: Gay. Mississippi State had to fight off several other schools to land the linebacker, including LSU and Ole Miss. DL Aaron Odom, who is from Jackson, Mississippi, was also coveted by several other schools, including Louisville.

One that got away: DL Tae-kion Reed. Mississippi State lost the defensive player to in-state rival Ole Miss.

How they'll fit in: The Bulldogs signed nine junior college players who have enrolled early and many of them could come in and contribute quickly. Others like Hill and Thompson have the luxury of learning from experienced starters if they're not ready from day one.

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For the full list: http://hailstate.com .

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More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25 .

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