With many of the top names from 2013 returning to the field for the Mississippi State Bulldogs in 2014, the Bulldog faithful have many reasons to hope for one of the top seasons in the history of Mississippi State football.
For the Bulldogs, much of that cause for hope starts at the quarterback position. Dak Prescott, who does not yet have a full season as a starter under his belt, proved to be the type of quarterback that can succeed in Dan Mullen's offense. With an entire offseason to develop further, high expectations rest on his legs and left arm. While it returning a top quarterback will help Mississippi State, the return of the leading wide receiver, Jameon Lewis, and the prospects of a raw talent being ready to blossom, De'Runnya Wilson, should help the Mississippi State offense be one of the most potent in school history.
Getting everything done through the air will not be the only way for the Bulldogs to move the football in 2014. The Bulldogs could have three legitimate threats to dominate the middle of the field with Josh Robinson, Ashton Shumpert and potentially Aeris Williams. With a player like Brandon Holloway available as well, the offense should be one that can attack an opposing offense.
The biggest challenge the Bulldogs face offensively is replacing Gabe Jackson and solidifying the offensive line. With three games against weaker competition to open the season, the Bulldogs should be able to buy time to find the right fit at the line.
The Bulldogs return a wealth of talent on the defensive side of the football as well. Chris Jones will be the name garnering attention along the defensive line, but other players such as A. J. Jefferson could emerge as stars as well. In the linebacker corps, no one will stand taller than Benardrick McKinney. The junior, who considered turning pro after his sophomore year, should be primed for a monster season, a season that may be his last in Starkville. The secondary, which has a few question marks, has outstanding talent returning in the form of Taveze Calhoun and Jamerson Love among others. With Justin Cox potentially switching back to his more natural safety position, the secondary could provide the type of coverage to allow the defense to attack the quarterback.
The only group on the roster that has a major question is the kicker position. While the Bulldogs should feel comfortable with Devon Bell punting, in no way can Dan Mullen and company feel confident in any field goal attempt after the 2013 season. However, with J. J. McGrath coming to Mississippi State from Michigan, and the Bulldogs signing Logan Cook, the Bulldogs should have more options at that position.
With a squad that has seen significant action returning to the field in 2014, the Bulldogs have a chance to feast on an easier schedule in the upcoming season.