5 Questions Which Need to be Answered About this Football Team
First Year in the SEC for Most of These Coaches
Having a new coaching staff can be a good thing like I mentioned in my last article, but half of these coaches have never coached in the SEC, the best conference in college football. Yes, as also mentioned in my previous article, a lot of these coaches have NFL coaching experience, but even in the NFL, you coach against teams like the Browns and Bills every year who you expect to beat. In the SEC, there is never a guaranteed win.
It will be interesting to see how these coaches, Moorhead in particular, adjusts to SEC play and seeing how successful Moorhead’s offense can be against SEC defenses. I have a TON of confidence in this new coaching staff, so this is my least biggest question mark, but I do feel there is already a lot of pressure for a brand new coaching staff to win 9 or more games, which can create a lot of stress early on.
This builds off of the previous point, but it specifically is a bigger question mark for me. I feel a 4-3 is a better defensive set to run in the SEC, but the bulldogs executed the 3-4 defense so well under Grantham that it leaves question marks as to whether it is smart to move away from it. Grantham definitely had a bigger name than Shoop, but Shoop is no stranger to coaching in the SEC and he has never had personnel quite this good in his coaching career.
The Bulldogs went through defensive coordinator after defensive coordinator during Mullen’s tenure as head coach including Manny Diaz, Geoff Collins, Chris Wilson, Carl Torbush, Peter Sirmon, and of course Todd Grantham. It would be nice to finally see a guy be able to implement his system in this program for a few years.
Shoop’s 4-3 defense will put four guys on the defensive line making it very hard for teams to pursue double teams with Simmons every down when you have edge rushers like Green and Sweat coming for your quarterback on each side. The Bulldogs went to the 3-4 last year for its linebackers depth, which it still has, but this team also has a ton of depth at the defensive line.
I think the key to Shoop’s defensive scheme this year will be having a nickel back in Brian Cole, who has the body type to make plays against the run as an extra linebacker and also the ability to work as a fifth defensive back on the field in coverage. Cole comes from two prestigious football programs in Michigan and EMCC, so there is no doubting he will be prepared to make a statement in his first year of SEC play. Just having Cole on the field will allow for the defensive staff to run many different variations to confuse quarterbacks and keep teams on their toes all game long.
The spring game made me feel really good about this question being answered in a positive way, but I am excited to see how our 4-3 looks when take the field against other opponents.
How Will Fitz Look in the New Offense?
One thing not answered in the spring game is how starting QB, Nick Fitzgerald, will look in the new offense, but Fitz’s experience is still something I feel confident in. Moorhead’s offense is going to take a lot more shots down field as we witnessed in the spring game, but it is something we did not see a lot of last season from the bulldogs.
Fitzgerald’s passing numbers (15 TD’s to 11 INT’s) were not the best last season, but if you look at the year before when he had a familiar name in Fred Ross to throw to, they were better (21 TD’s to 10 INT’s). We have known Fitzgerald has had the arm strength since he stepped on campus and Dak Prescott himself discussed Fitz already having a stronger arm than his own.
Fitzgerald’s accuracy has been the thing people question the most when discussing his abilities as a quarterback, but is he really to blame when we can probably say with honesty that our wide receiver group has been arguably our weakest position group these last few years. We expect those things to change in the coming season, but only time will tell.
Moorhead’s offense also opens the door for the quarterback to make plays with his feet, which we know Fitz has always been capable of doing but how will he look coming off of injury. I personally feel that if Fitz does indeed come back 100 percent, then we will see the redshirt senior produce 40+ total touchdowns this coming season and will break more Mississippi State records before he puts down the maroon and white pads one last time.
Will the WR group step up?
My previous point hit on this just a bit, but by far my biggest question mark will be whether enough guys will step up in this position group to make plays that can put the bulldogs in contention for a CFP spot at the end of the year. Mississippi State’s leader in receiving yards finished with a WHOPPING 276 yards, which was Jesse Jackson the senior this year from Petal, MS. For those who are not as educated on football statistics, that is a very sarcastic statement and something we must improve on this coming fall. Guys like Austin Williams and Devonta Jason looked very promising in the spring game, but will those guys continue to make plays even in big games like Alabama and Auburn.
The Bulldogs get back key guys like Keith Mixon and Malik Dear from injury, and add the number one JUCO wide receiver Stephen Guidry, but we have still not been able to see him and evaluate. Either way, this group can not possibly be worse than it was last season, but we need it to be much, much better if we are going to have a shot at playing in late January.
Using tight ends like Justin Johnson and Farrod Green and running backs like Aeris and Kylin will help take a lot of pressure off of these guys, but they cannot be dropping balls like we saw yet again in the spring game. Mississippi State wide receivers, I hope you can all prove me wrong this year and help us field a complete offense.
New Coaches, New looks around the SEC
My final question deals with other teams and how good they will be under their new coaching staffs? Florida under Mullen, Aggies under Jimbo, and the Razorbacks under Morris, are all teams we will have to play against this season, so it will be interesting to see how improved they look under their new coaching staffs as well. Something I do not care to discuss in detail, but it is a question I have nonetheless.
All in all, this team is very capable of making noise this coming football season. People, we were not pre-ranked as high as #11 team in the country as a fluke, but we have to go out there and prove it to the world. Mississippi State is not supposed to be good at football in other people’s eyes. It’s time we prove the Dak days were only the beginning. I look forward to witnessing it with my own eyes. Slimy out.