Over the next couple of weeks we'll take a position-by-position look at the MSU football team and take an educated guess at each unit's final 2015 statistics.
Today we take a stab at the wide receivers, a group that returns over 2100 yards and over 20 touchdowns from last season.
If you ask me it's one of MSU's most underrated and disrespected positions this preseason, especially when the media say "Dak can't do it by himself." As much production that returns at wide receiver, this perception that MSU only has Dak is foolish.
Joe Morrow and Fred Brown out performed Robert Johnson on the outside last year. Fred Ross out performed Jameon Lewis and undoubtedly brings more consistency as the starting slot receiver.
But everybody else doesn't see it that way. They see it as State losing two "starters" in Johnson and Lewis.
Nonetheless, this unit should be one of the top five in the SEC by the end of the season. Their numbers should improve overall thanks to another year of experience under their belt and an offense likely built around the passing game.
Here's a look at our projected stats for the top five wide receivers:
De'Runnya Wilson- It may be his last year to suit up in Maroon if he takes the jump most people are expecting. But he needs to dominate the weaker teams (as crazy as it sounds) if he wants an early entry into the NFL. He showed up and showed out against elite defenses such as Alabama and Ole Miss, but he barely made an impact against the weaker teams. Granted, a lot of that has to do with playing time. But if he brings that dominance on a consistent basis there's no reason to think he can't be one of the top receivers in the country. He'll take a step in that direction, but MSU's depth will prevent him from eclipsing 1,000 yards.
2014 stats: 47 receptions, 680 yards, 9 touchdowns
2015 projection: 62 receptions, 917 yards, 12 touchdowns
Fred Ross- What an absolute steal this guy was from Oklahoma State a couple years ago. He's shown he can line up anywhere on the field and make plays. He may play outside at times this year but the plan is to start him in the slot. At 6-2 that makes him a mismatch over the middle. Outside of the deep ball against Texas A&M I can't remember Ross dropping many passes last season. He will have plenty of space to make plays with so much focus on De'Runnya.
2014 stats: 30 receptions, 489 yards, 5 touchdowns
2015 projection: 46 receptions, 652 yards, 7 touchdowns
Joe Morrow- He quietly put together a solid season in 2014 and took a step towards living up to the hype surrounding him as a freshman. He still isn't a finished product, but at 6-4 he's a mismatch for every defender. Morrow led the team with 20.2 yards per catch, and he will be a solid downfield target for Prescott on the opposite side of De'Runnya.
2014 stats: 17 receptions, 344 yards, 4 touchdowns
2015 projection: 28 receptions, 436 yards, 4 touchdowns
Donald Gray- Rated the nations No. 1 JUCO wide receiver, Gray will have every opportunity to play from game one. He's only about 5-10 -- which makes you wonder why the coaches want him on the outside -- but you may see him and Fred Ross switch back and forth depending on matchups. They will find a way to get Gray on the field one way or another.
2015 projection: 24 receptions, 343 yards, 3 touchdowns
Gabe Myles- Often overlooked when talking about MSU's talented wide receiver corp is Gabe Myles. He filled in quite well when Jameon Lewis was injured last year and it was easy to see his playmaking ability with the ball in his hands. But for some odd reason he didn't see the field much once Jameon returned. Myles is a solid backup in the slot and should even see a few runs on jet sweeps.
2014 stats: 22 receptions, 178 yards, 0 touchdowns
2015 projection: 35 receptions, 302 yards, 4 touchdowns
It's really hard to project a top five when State's receiving corp is so deep, probably deeper than it's ever been. Case in point: I left off Fred Brown, who had right at 300 yards last season. He's another player who could have a big year.
The receiving yards were distributed pretty evenly last season, and that will repeat itself once again. The only prediction I feel confident in is Wilson and Ross leading the pack. Outside of that everything is up for grabs and the coaches will have a tough time deciding who plays the most snaps.
The future is bright at this position -- not only for 2015 but for many years to come.