STARKVILLE, Miss. — With the bye week in the rearview mirrors, it’s time to recap what has happened up to this point and what there is to look forward to the rest of the season.
The Bulldogs are 3-2 overall and hold a 1-1 record in the Southeastern Conference, and let’s be honest, the 2019 season has not gone the way anyone anticipated for the Bulldogs. Losses to Kansas State and Auburn have fans questioning the coaching staff’s decisions and whether or not the Bulldogs will even make it into a bowl game. Fans have every right to be frustrated this far, but let’s look past those frustrations and instead look at what lies ahead for the Bulldogs.
Moving forward, true freshman quarterback Garrett Shrader needs to be the starting quarterback. This is not a knock on senior quarterback Tommy Stevens. Stevens has shown that he has talent, but injuries have slowed him down. We all wanted Stevens to be a success story in Starkville, but he just isn’t the answer. Shrader is the answer. Fans and former Bulldogs have all seen the way Shrader is able to take command of this team. He has passed for a team-high 511 yards. He has also carried the ball 46 times for 312 yards, which is second on the team. His two rushing touchdowns are also tied for second on the team. Shrader has been the best quarterback for the Bulldogs this season, and in my opinion, it’s not even close. It’s a whole new team when Shrader is under center. The fans have also jumped on the Shrader wagon and have an undeniable support for Shrader in the present and in the future. I think it’s safe to say that the Charlotte, North Carolina native is the future of the Bulldogs.
Also, let’s not forget that junior running back Kylin Hill is still one of the most talented running backs in the entire country. His 596 yards rushing rank No. 12 in the nation, and his usage rate is not going down anytime soon. He will bounce back and continue to prove why he was a named to Doak Walker Award (top running back in college football) and Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year) watch lists.
As good as Hill has been, the offensive line still needs to play better. The past two games have seen poor offensive line play. I don’t expect this to continue, but better offensive line play has to start this week. Open up running lanes for Hill, give Shrader time to pass, and the offense will only improve.
Through the air, junior wide receiver Osirus Mitchell has been the best player in an underwhelming passing game. He leads the team in catches (19), yards (277) and touchdown catches (4). Bigger things from senior receivers Isaiah Zuber and Stephen Guidry will be needed.
On the defensive side, tackling has been a weakness for State. The Bulldogs rank 12th in the SEC in total defense, with only Ole Miss and Vanderbilt giving up more yards per game than MSU. It’s time for star junior linebacker Erroll Thompson to step up. He is the team captain of this defense and was named to the preseason All-SEC First Team. Through five games, Thompson is fourth in tackles on the team (31) and has yet to record a sack or a tackle for loss. To be fair, he has been double teamed quite a bit this season. However, the talent is there, now he just needs to put his head down and make some plays to get this defense back to playing like a Mississippi State defense. Junior safety C.J. Morgan currently leads the defense with 36 tackles.
The Bulldogs can turn this season around, and it begins this week in Knoxville, Tennessee, against the Tennessee Volunteers (1-2, 0-2 SEC). This is a crucial game for head coach Joe Moorhead and MSU. The win would get the Bulldogs back on track, and It would put them in prime position to earn a spot in a bowl game.
Saturday’s game against the Vols begins at 11 a.m. CT at Neyland Stadium and will be televised by SEC Network.
Here’s to turning things around. Hail State!
@ Tennessee (Oct. 12)
LSU (Oct. 19)
@ Texas A&M (Oct. 26)
@ Arkansas (Nov. 2)
Alabama (Nov. 16)
Abilene Christian (Nov. 23)
Ole Miss (Nov. 28)