Rethinking Impact Players--A New Depth Chart and a New Look

Butch Dill

With the release of Mississippi State's first depth chart of the 2013 season, it was time to start reexamining the list of 25 impact players for 2013.

Nothing can cause consternation like a countdown or a list. Anything that has a ranking to it will create controversy. That is why these types of list are so popular in nearly every form of media. They give people something to discuss and argue with one another.

When I started coming up with my list of impact players, I knew there would be choices that some people would not like (Baker Swedenberg at No. 24, for example), but that was not much of a bother to me. The fact is, no one could create a list of "Impact Players," whatever that phrase really means, that would not stir up a bunch of heat at different points. Again, that is a bit of the fun of such a list.

However, with any list, and one this big, there will be some swings and misses on the list, and with the release of the Mississippi State depth chart headed into the Oklahoma State game, there are a few glaring ones thus far.

The first may have been placing Quay Evans at No. 25 on the list. At the time, the huge sophomore was not listed on the depth chart, but I had a feeling that he could play his way into the chart or at least into the conversation of seeing a significant number of snaps. A player with his size and natural ability should be hard to deny, but denied he was. Now, he could still show up and make fantastic plays and crack the depth chart before the year ends, but as of right now, this seems like a reach.

Another reach, No. 23, Beniquez Brown. The redshirt freshman came to Mississippi State with lots of hype, and he seemed like a player who had the ability to make some noise in the fall camp. If that noise was made, it was not super loud. Again, not a knock on the player, but maybe a tip of the cap to the starting linebacker group. Will Brown see significant time? Yes he will, and he will need to play well. Should he have been No. 23, probably not.

How's this for a miss? Taveze Calhoun was not even on the list. The cornerback came into the fall looking like the backup to Justin Cox opposite Jamerson Love. Cox, who stood at No. 10 on the list, had all of the attention coming into camp. Seemingly out of no where, Cahoun was announced as the starter opposite Love, so he had to be placed in the list. No. 6 might have been to high, but by the time the move was announced, there was not much else of a place for him to land.

Perhaps the most troublesome part of the whole thing may have been trying to define what the list truly is. What is an impact player? Is it he who plays the best each week? How do you really measure the impact of a player on a game? Is it similar to the infamous WAR stat from baseball? Is it just based on value over a backup? Is it a stand alone concept or can it tie in with others. My feeble attempt at an explanation from the first post still left a bit to be cleaned up.

Every football season comes down to a few players and a few plays per game. The team that has the players that make those plays win games, and those that lose do not find a way to make those plays. This countdown attempts to find the 25 players at Mississippi State that must have good seasons in order for the Bulldogs to be successful. Many factors come into play when creating such a list: production that must be replaced from last year, quality of the depth chart behind a player, likelihood of a backup seeing significant action, and importance of position are among a few of the criteria put in place to develop this list...

To be honest, I still have not thought of the words to describe such a countdown. Words such as fun come to mind, as it has been fun to do, but that will not do in defining the list.

Today's choice at No. 4, Tyler Russell, will be sure to stir up talk. Here is an interesting stat to consider, and it played the largest role in him not being higher on my list. In each of the Bulldogs' losses, a touchdown from Russell would not have changed the outcome. In the seven Mississippi State wins, one fewer touchdown pass would not have changed the win from a loss. In the Troy game, Mississippi State had a point after missed after a touchdown pass, and had this one not been thrown, the Bulldogs would have gone to overtime at worst, where they may have lost. In the other six games, the Bulldogs were so far ahead that a deduction of seven points would not have changed the outcome. Can one argue that momentum changes with touchdown passes, and that might have provided the difference? I guess that is a fair argument to consider. However, could it be that one of the most prolific passing seasons in Mississippi State history could have been a little (not a lot) less prolific without damaging Mississippi State's season?

No matter how one looks at it, there will be players who should have been on the list, and others that should not have. It is all part of the fun of the folly of trying to make such a list.

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