Mississippi State released its 2015 media guide today. Naturally, fans want to take a glimpse at the way too early depth chart before anything else. Although the list was compiled by MSU football SID Bill Martin and not by coaches, it's still interesting to see where players stack up against their competition with fall camp on the horizon.
It could and probably will look a lot different by the time September 5 rolls around, but here's the depth chart as we head into camp:
QB: Dak Prescott; Damian Williams OR Nick Fitzgerald OR Elijah Staley
RB: Ashton Shumpert; Dontavian Lee OR Aeris Williams OR Brandon Holloway
WR: De'Runnya Wilson; Donald Gray
WR: Fred Brown; Joe Morrow
WR: Fred Ross; Gabe Myles
LT: Rufus Warren; Cole Carter
LG: Justin Malone; Kent Flowers
C: Jamaal Clayborn; Jocquell Johnson
RG: Devon Desper; Deion Clahoun
RT: Justin Senior; Martinas Rankin
TE: Gus Walley OR Darrion Hutcherson
The first two things that stand out are offensive line and running back. Former tight end Rufus Warren is holding down Dak Prescott's blind side while highly-touted Martinas Rankin is the back-up at right tackle. Rankin, the No. 1 JUCO offensive tackle in the country, was expected to come in and start right away at left tackle. If anything, it speaks to the productive spring that Rufus Warren had, and that's a battle that will last up until the season, assuming the coaches don't want to keep Rankin at right tackle.
Running back is the position that is up in the air the most, although Ashton Shumpert is probably a lock to start the season. The biggest question is how long will that last and how will the reps be split between the talented stable of backs.
Tight end will also be fun to keep an eye on. Gus Walley is the more experienced player, although that experience is somewhat limited. Darrion Hutcherson has the size to be a mismatch for any defense MSU lines up against, and if he improves his hands, he can be a dangerous weapon in the red zone.
DE: Ryan Brown; Will Coleman
DT: Chris Jones; Nick James
DT: Nelson Adams; Cory Thomas OR Braxton Hoyett
DE: A.J. Jefferson; Torrey Dale
LB: Zach Jackson; J.T. Gray
LB: Richie Brown; Gerri Green
LB: Beniquez Brown; Quadry Antoine
CB: Will Redmond; Cedric Jiles
S: Kivon Coman OR Brandon Bryant
S: Kendrick Market; Deontay Evans
CB: Taveze Calhoun; Tolando Cleveland
The two positions on defense most likely to change before the season are safety and outside linebacker. Kendrick Market might not even be able to play early in the season after returning from a torn Achilles. Safety will be a position that sees a ton of new faces, and talented freshmen Jamal Peters and Mark McLaurin will surely have a place in that rotation.
Zach Jackson may be the most likely to lose his starting position. J.T. Gray and Dez Harris, assuming he's healthy, will be hard to beat out. Jackson struggled defending the pass last season and will likely be on a short leash.
I don't think you will see much change on the defensive line. The starters are pretty much set. The backups will have the most to prove, and the two redshirt freshmen Braxton Hoyett and Cory Thomas will be heavily relied upon. The obvious x-factor is big Nick James. If he can play with more consistency and have the stamina to be on the field for entire series, look out.
PK: Westin Graves OR Devon Bell
KO: Logan Cooke
P: Devon Bell; Logan Cooke
SN: Winston Chapman; Hunter Bradley
HLD: Dak Prescott; Devon Bell
KR: Will Redmond AND/OR Fred Ross AND/OR Donald Gray
PR: Fred Ross; Will Redmond
Place kicker is the biggest question mark on special teams after the departure of the reliable Evan Sobiesk. You can probably ignore the OR. Devon Bell is the favorite right now with the stronger leg and a lot more game experience. Fans won't have much patience with whoever wins that spot. That's one thing I can guarantee.
Kick returner and punt returner have been average at best under Dan Mullen, but I like Fred Ross and Will Redmond at those spots, both two of the better athletes on the team. However, I might put somebody like Jamoral Graham and Brandon Holloway back there on kickoffs. It's always nice to have speedy players at that position who aren't starters. You never know when somebody will get injured.
Who knows how different these depth charts would look if the coaches put them together. And it doesn't mean much in the middle of July, but hey, it's something to talk about. Unfortunately, we still have to pass the time for almost another two months.