Anyone that saw Chad Bumphis go down in Saturday night's Egg Bowl knew instantly that his injury was a pretty big one. If the painful grimace etched across his face wasn't enough, the fact that he never returned to the game was enough to confirm our original assumptions.
Bumphis's collar bone was broken, and now that it's been confirmed, we also know he won't be healthy in time for the bowl game. Make no mistake about it, losing Bumphis is a big blow. With 44 catches, 634 receiving yards, and five touchdowns, Bumphis was the key receiver for the Bulldog offense.
To make matters worse, the odds of getting senior wide receiver Leon Berry back in time for the bowl game are pretty slim too. Berry dislocated his ankle during a kick return against Houston midway through the season. Berry has since had surgery on the ankle. The coaching staff had been optomistic that he would be healthy enough to return in time for the post season. Coach Dan Mullen has now stated that the possibility of Berry making it back in a month's time is "questionable".
So, now the burden falls on the shoulders of some of the younger, less experienced players. Arceto Clark is behind Bumphis on the receiving stat sheet for 2010. Clark has 22 catches for 317 yards and two touchdowns. To be honest, Clark wasn't who I expected to see at number two behind Bumphis. I really thought I'd find Brandon Heavens there instead. I see a lot of talent in Heavens and I think we'll see big things from him in the future. Heavens currently has 20 catches for 304 yards and two touchdowns.
Last, but certainly not least, the Bulldogs have began to rely on Chris Smith much more in the past few games. Smith has 20 catches for the entire season with 11 of those coming in the last three games. Furthermore, Smith scored his first TD of the season Saturday night. He's racked up 218 yards receiving on the season but 131 of those yards came in the last three games.
Chris Relf has been throwing the ball more in recent weeks and is having some success. Coach Mullen has him making throws that are comfortable for him (and a solid offensive line led by Derek Sherrod doesn't hurt). He's not throwing anything fancy, most of his throws in the Ole Miss game were short passes that allowed the receivers to make some things happen with their legs. MSU is not currently known for having strong receivers, but I think the guys we've got are more talented than many people think. They'll get better with experience; it's already beginning to show with Chris Smith. Obviously, MSU's bread and butter is running the football, but if Relf is forced to throw (as he was against Ole Miss and Arkansas) he's got some talented guys to throw to.
And don't forget about LaDarius Perkins. He had a lot of balls thrown his way Saturday night too.
The news regarding Bumphis and Berry isn't good, but it certainly could be worse. We've got a great coach, good players, and most importantly, a ton of confidence. Coach Mullen and his staff will have their young receivers well prepared for post season play.