Pushed back a day due to Hurrican Bjork (National Weather Service will not confirm nor deny that name for the series of storms that have plagued Mississippi in the last several days, but they do believe it was derived in Iceland or Sweden), Mississippi State will begin laying the framework for the 2012 football team when Spring Practice opens. Here are a few things to look for whether you are going to attend practice or just read internet practice reports.
How does the offensive line develop/mesh? This is the most important question in the spring, summer, and fall. This is the key to this team. If we can get some offensive line play similar to the '10 squad, then these guys can win nine games. Seriously. Returning is third-year starting guard Gabe Jackson. He'll likely be held out from a lot of contact because he is very experienced, and there is really no threat to his job. Also, Blaine Clausell and Dillon Day bring back some starting experience. Although just redshirt freshman last year, the two gained valuable experience when they were thrown in to the fire due to injuries. Incoming Junior College players Charles Siddoway and Dylan Holley are also expected to contribure heavily, if not start right away. You might also want to watch for some of the younger guys like Jason Malone, Damien Robinson, Daniel Knox, and Nick Redmond. We are in desperate need of some depth on the O-Line. As we found out last year.
Who starts to seperate themselves at the running back position? Two years ago when we lost Anthony Dixon, the most accomplished back in school history, we though we'd be going with the "running back by committee" approach. Well, along came Vick Ballard, and the rest is history. Ladarius Perkins did receive his fare share of touches, and will replace Chris Relf as "Rebel Killer D'jour" this season, as he always seems to explode versus the 'Feds. I'm looking to see which guy will seperate himself from the pack. Obviously, that might not happen in spring ball, but rest assured, it will. Perkins isn't big enough to carry the load by himself for a full season. We might go at it by committee, but I'd like to see one guy rise above the rest. Nick Griffin has been given the label as "the next great Bulldog back", but will his injury prevent him from reaching such promise? Will Josh Robinson's practice legend translate to on-field results? When will we see Derek Milton throw his hat in the ring? Running back is definitely a position to watch in the spring.
Can the young guns at Wide Receiver overatake any of the old guard? The triumvirate of Chris Smith, Arceto Clark, and Chad Bumphis have started almost every game the last three years. Along with vets like Brandon Heavens and Ricco Sanders, this is a seasoned group. But there are some young, talented pass-catchers eager to show that they can get do better. We all were wowed by the speed, quickness, and dreads of one Jameon Lewis last season. Has he developed the discipline with the ball to really push Bumphis and Heavens for PT. He has the quickness and speed advantage over the two seniors, but he has to mature in learning how to hold on to the football if he wants meaningful snaps. Joe Morrow is the type of receiver fans have been clamoring for for years. He's the prototype-6'4 200 with long arms and leaping ability. John Banks spoke last year of just how tough a cover he was, and John Banks ain't no slouch at coverage. Morrow can be the red zone and deep threat that stretches the D that we have been missing. We just have to hope he lives up to all the hype. Thirdly, is the question of Robert Johnson. RoJo is in his third year with the program as a redshirt sophomore who saw very little PT last year after a magnificent Spring Game that saw him look like a stud. Many have said it is only a matter of time before he "gets it" and really makes a push for a starting job. Let's hope so. He has a rare combination of size, speed, and hands along with route running ability that few on our roster posses.
In the front seven, defensively, there's not a lot of questions. In most MSU fans minds, five of the seven spots are basically filled. You will wanna watch JC transfer Denico Autry. He's gonna be special. He's the guy that's going to bring the heat on the QB for us this year. Also, freshman early enrollee Quay Evans. He's big. He's scary. He has dreads. And he's going to rock some people. I'd also look for some competition at linebacker. Outside of Cam Lawrence and Deontae Skinner, nothing is settled on the two deep. Young guys like Benardrick McKinney, Christian Holmes, Matthew Wells,and Ferlando Bohanna will try to establish themselves as impact players on a team that is desperate for some second-level hell-rasiers. Personally, I'm not a big Chris Hughes fan. Usually 210 pound linebackers don't work out versus teams like Bama and LSU, but maybe he can get his act together and contribute for us in some way other than being the jump up and down guy on the kickoff team.
The biggest question defensively in the spring is the Safety postion. Losing Wade Bonner and Charles Mitchell in the same year, along with stud Nicko Whitley being injured and held out of practice is really going to test a group that is young, inexperienced, and a little light on the talent side. The contenders: Louis Watson(we're in trouble if he plays anything other than nickel on third downs), Jay Hughes(wait and see), Dee Arrington(the most physically talented out of the group), and Kendrick Market. Hopefully Hughes and Arrington step up and can rotate with Whitley in the fall. That's best case scenario. Also look for redshirt freshman Zack Jackson. He's a bigger safety at 6'1 210 that has dabbled in some linebacker, but he could easily slide back to safety, his high school position.