In 2017, Moorhead’s Penn State offense produced two 500 yard Wide Receiver’s, while Mississippi State had none. With the combo of Nick Fitzgerald and Aeris Williams it is logical to assume that Moorhead and Co. will continue to lean on the running game, but it also stands to reason that he will put more emphasis on the outside passing game. Coming off of a 9-4 season, MSU is setting it’s sights on the playoffs. Like Moorhead’s group in Penn State, all 4 playoff teams in 2017 produced at least one 500 yard receiver. Here’s the list:
Alabama- Calvin Ridley (896 yards)
Clemson- Deon Cain (659 yards), Hunter Renfrow (571 yards) & Ray-Ray McCloud (502 yards)
Georgia- Javon Wims (631 yards) & Terry Godwin (540 yards)
Oklahoma- Marquise Brown (981 yards) & Ceedee Lamb (741 yards)
From a regional perspective, Mississippi State will obviously first need to get through the SEC if they‘re eyeing a run at the National Title. Last year’s SEC championship featured Georgia and Auburn, with a ticket to the playoffs on the line. So, did Auburn have guys over the 500 yard thresh hold? Yes, two of them. Ryan Davis totaled 768 yards and Darius Slayton added 574. The Bulldogs leading Receiver (in terms of yards) last year was, Jesse Jackson with 276. You read that right, MSU failed to have a single guy collect even 300 yards in 2017.
So what is the point of all of this? Simple, the Bulldogs need to improve their passing game. The Defense should be a top ten unit again this year, and it’s understood that baring injuries, Fitzgerald and Williams will generate elite production on the ground. The key to a deep run this year, is growing the passing game. Evident above is that the elite teams in the nation and SEC last year could move the ball through the air. The key to this is equal parts Fitzgerald, Moorhead, Luke Getsy, and the guys on the outside, the latter we’ll discuss here. Let’s dive into this years non-freshmen Wide Receiver group.
Jesse Jackson- The 6’2 211 lbs outside Wide Receiver, led Mississippi State in both catches (27) and yards (276) in 2017. With below average (at best) speed, Jackson will have to use his frame and strength in order to repeat as the number 1 guy in Starkville.
Keith Mixon- Mixon was second on the Bulldogs with 275 yards last year, a number he needs to build upon in his Junior season. The 5’8, 185 lbs, slot receiver should be a a cog in the offense this season. While Moorhead’s Penn State offense featured big numbers for their outside guys, Fitzgerald is most accurate on quick passes over the middle. Mixon’s speed will be utilized, and look for him to be a higher volume player in 2018.
Deddrick Thomas- Thomas was another guy to contribute 200 yards (227) to the 2017 season. He, like Mixon, will add to the versatile attack over the middle of the field for the Bulldogs. Moorhead loved the use of crossing routes and rub routes to create separation over the middle in Penn State. Expect a lot of that from Mixon and Thomas this year.
Malik Dear- Malik missed the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL, and looks to make his return this fall. 5’9 and 220 lbs, Malik will be another competing body in the slot. In 2015 and 2016 he was able to produce touchdown-wise (6), but has yet to surpass the 300 yard mark. While he added another 100 yards in both years on the ground, the Bulldogs need him to produce in the passing game.
Reggie Todd- 6’4 and 201 lbs, Todd is a former 4 star recruit. There has been excitement about Todd due to his athleticism and size. However, given his arrest on Tuesday 6/12, Todd may now be a giant question mark.
Jamal Couch- Mississippi State will be looking for a breakout year from Couch. 6’4 and 223 lbs, Couch is big and can play the vertical game. He enters the season looking for his first collegiate touchdown, and first 200+ yard season. He has the chance to excel in Moorhead’s system, but that’s on him to get out there and produce.
Stephen Guidry- Guidry is former 4 star recruit, and was a top 5 Junior College prospect this off-season. Standing at 6’4 and 190 lbs, he’s carrying a lot of the hopes to turn the Bulldogs passing attack around. Extremely productive at every level he’s played, it’s now time to prove it on the big stage.
Osirus Mitchell- As mentioned, tall outside receivers have a big role in Moorhead‘s offense. Mitchel is 6’4 and 210 lbs, and was considered a raw player with a chance to develop into a high-end wide receiver when he came to MSU. While he has popped on tape, he will need to improve upon his 5 catch 51 yard Sophomore season. An upside guy, with a chance to make a leap forward in 2018.
On paper, there is a lot of upside and potential in this wide receiver core. The hiring of Moorhead has brought the hope of an improved offense along with it. The data is clear, for MSU to make the leap to National Title contender, it is vital that they move the ball through the air this season. Like with all of the playoff teams, the need is for just one or two of these guys to have big years. An uptick in the passing yards in September, will be a strong indicator of what the Bulldogs could be playing for come November-December.