On to the wide-outs. Like the cornerbacks, this group won't be lacking in the experience department. The issue here is production. To the defense of these seniors, they haven't exactly had pocket passers throwing them the ball the last three years...but that changes in 2012 with Tyler Russell.
MSU's history with WRs isn't anything to write home about. State has always stuck to running the ball whether it be the wishbone or playing for field position, and no wide out has ever been able to produce gaudy statistics. Mardye McDole is MSU's all-time leading receiver with 2,214 career yards, which isn't too amazing (Eric Moulds had 2,022 in case you were wondering).
It's time for the receiving corps to make a move this year. There are plenty of reasons to have hope for them, as this should be the best group since the days of Justin Jenkins, Ray Ray Bivines and Terrll Grindle (yes, I just referred to the Kevin Fant era; but 2002 was MSU's 2nd best year ever so don't be too quick to laugh).
|Chris Smith||6'2", 205lbs||Sr.||Meridian, MS (Meridian)|
|Malcolm Johnson (TE)||6'2", 230lbs||So.||Tuscaloosa, AL (Northridge)|
Key Members to Replace
Marcus Green (TE): 11 catches for 188 yards, 1 TD - had good hands except for when he dropped the ball*.
Key Members Returning
Arceto Clark: 30 catches, 442 yards, 4 TDs
Chad Bumphis: 25 catches, 339 yards, 3 TDs
Chris Smith: 35 catches, 330 yards, 2 TDs
Malcolm Johnson (TE): 12 catches, 226 yards, 3 TDs
Newcomers to Watch
Joe. Morrow. I, as well as every other Bulldog can't hold out for the fire hydrant - I'm about to whiz my pants on this kid. Please, Joe, be the real deal. He's a redshirt freshman, 6'-4", 205 and I can't wait to see what he can do.
2011 Position Performance
State got typical MSU production out of the WRs and TEs last year. Seven players had more than 150 yards but Arceto Clark led with only 442. The passing offense was 186.2 yards per game - good for 6th in the SEC. Mississippi State returns (yet again) its top 4 receivers from 2011.
What to Expect in 2012
The good news is: all of the wide receivers will be back in 2012. The bad news is: the three top receivers (Clark, Bumphis & Smith) have all had significant playing time since their freshman year and have always produced about the same each year.
(Motivational material for Bump): Chad Bumphis needs to take charge and have a big senior season. He's coming off his worst game at State: two rushes for -4 yards and one catch for -3 in the Music City Bowl (then he got arrested on New Year's Eve). Bump led MSU in receiving his true freshman (375 YDs) and sophomore (634 YDs) seasons. 2011 looked like the year when would breakout to become an All-SEC player, but he regressed to have his worst year (he was still 2nd on the team in receiving). He was a NO SHOW in SEC games: out of his 339 yards, 216 came vs. the four non-conference opponents. All three of his receiving TDs were against Memphis, UAB and UT-Martin. He had one punt return for a TD...against LA Tech. He best SEC game of the year was against Auburn when he had 2 catches for 31 yards. It was like he was stuck in neutral all season and couldn't get open.
After the assumed leader in Bumphis, you've got Smith, Clark and fellow senior Brandon Heavens. Then there's sophomore Ricco Sanders who had 15 catches for 163 yards last year. Sophomore Jameon Lewis is a speedster who could be seen at a myriad of positions around the field, but primarily at the slot. And, of course, the man we're all hoping will push everyone aside to take control of this group - Joe Morrow.
At tight end, State has to fill the void left by Marcus Green. I don't suspect there will be any problems with Malcolm Johnson being able to do that. Brandon Hill is basically the same size as Johnson, and is a sophomore too. I wouldn't look for too many double TE sets in Mullen's offense, however.
I expect some big things for this unit. In all seriousness, I expect them to break MSU's all-time single season passing record of 2,637 (yes, that is embarrassing). With Tyler Russell flinging the pigskin, a senior-laden group plus some talented underclassman, why not? And if Bumphis can have the big year we've all been waiting for - 1,000 yards - he'll become MSU's all-time leading receiver (What?!). In case you don't want to do the math, the Dawgs would need to average about 210 YPG (including a bowl) to get the record - that's only 25 YPG more than 2011.
Next up in the FWTCT Football Spring Position Previews are the Linebackers. Look for the LB's preview post to go up this afternoon.