STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi State's recent football success has been built on a bruising defense.
The Bulldogs' current recruiting class signals that approach isn't going to change much.
Mississippi State announced a 23-man signing class on Wednesday's national signing day, which is on top of five players who already enrolled in January.
Two of the five early enrollees will count toward the 2012 class, bringing the total to the SEC-limit of 25.
The other three will count back toward the 2011 class.
The Bulldogs loaded up on the defense, especially along the defensive line, with eight players listed as defensive end or defensive tackle.
"It's the deepest group and it's something that's really important to us," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said.
"When you have players leaving for the NFL, that's a good problem to have."
Later he added: "I think that group as a whole is the strength of this class."
Among the highest-rated are Denico Autry and Quay Evans.
Autry is a 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive end from East Mississippi Community College while Evans is a 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive tackle from Morton, Miss.
Both were four-star recruits according to Rivals.com and are already enrolled.
Mullen said both could be on the field early, especially since they are already in the program.
"They have the opportunity to be a little ahead of the other guys," Mullen said. "That can make a lot of difference."
There weren't many surprises for the Bulldogs on the signing day- good or bad. As expected, linebacker Richie Brown announced he would sign with Mississippi State on Wednesday morning at his high school in Long Beach, Miss.
Mullen continued his trend of signing classes heavy on local products - 16 players in this year's class are from Mississippi.
This was the first season that the SEC had a 25-man signing limit.
Previously, teams were allowed to sign more than 25, which allowed more wiggle room when dealing with prospects that might be academic risks.
Mullen said the limit had an effect.
"I think it's scary because one of the things you look at on signing day, you can't go over anymore," Mullen said. "... It's made it a little more tricky balancing act."
Mississippi State also signed Nick Schuessler, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound quarterback out of Loganville, Ga.
The Bulldogs figure to have a wide open quarterback race next fall after the departure of senior Chris Relf.
Sophomore Dylan Favre left the program in December, leaving backup Tyler Russell and redshirt freshman Dak Prescott as the only two quarterbacks on the roster.
This was one of Mississippi State's highly-regarded classes in recent memory.
Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247sports.com all put the Bulldogs' class among the nation's top 30 as of Wednesday afternoon, but Mullen said he didn't care when his previous classes were ranked poorly, so he's not going to start caring now that this year's received more favorable reviews.
"Everybody knows my feeling on that," Mullen said. "We'll evaluate this recruiting class in three years and see where we're at."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)