The Bulldogs are soon to be back in action down in New Orleans in less than two weeks. I’m going just to share some information, thoughts and opinions on the upcoming football season. As most readers already know, the GBU articles will focus on key aspects that affect the Bulldogs football program in both a positive and negative ways. The articles will not discuss what happened in the games, I expect that most readers will know that information, but rather why it happened and what needs to change or stay the same moving forward. I always want as much feedback from the readers as possible, so please share your opinions and thoughts each week.
As for our upcoming opponent, the “Mighty Swamp Cat, Alligator-fighting, Frog Leg eatin’ Ragin’ Cajuns” of the University of Louisiana, well, I have nothing, except that their coach wants all the players on scholarship to pay at least $50 to the booster club and I’m not really sure why. Maybe travel meals, new socks, recruiting or something like that, Either way, those Ragin’ Cajuns will be the Bulldogs first test of the year. Moving on with the Good the Bad and the Ugly, Final Prep.
I always like to start with, THE GOOD!
There are a couple of things about the start of the 2019 football season that really stand out to me. One of them is having a true quarterback competition. The battle between junior Keytaon Thompson and graduate transfer Tommy Stevens is currently in the final stages and I believe a clear winner will be named this week. I will not name who I think it will be (Stevens), but I know that either way it will be a positive direction for the Bulldog offense.
The second good is starting the season with three straight non-conference games with one neutral and two at home. This is good for the Bulldogs because it lets the new starters get settled and work out any kinks on both sides of the ball. The Bulldogs cannot afford to lose any of these first three games or going bowling this year might be difficult.
Another positive thing is that the Bulldog offense has had over a year to soak up Moorhead’s offensive mind set and playbook. With that being said, I think we will get a better look at the offense everybody expected to see last season that just didn’t seem to pan out. Here’s to fingers crossed.
It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that the Bulldogs had three first round picks in the 2019 NFL draft, which was the most in school history. All three players in Jeffery Simmons, Montez Sweat and (Hammer head) Jonathan Abrams will be truly missed by state fans this season and for good reason. But I must say that both Montez Sweat and Jonathan Abrams’ positions will have some experienced players taking their place. Look for Chauncey Rivers to step up and become an elite pass rusher this season. Can Rivers surpass 12 sacks set by Sweat last season? In short, hail yes. Rivers played in all 13 games last year and compiled 2.5 sacks and 24 tackles (seven for loss). I look for those numbers to greatly increase in 2019. On the other side of the defensive line will be either Kobe Jones or Fletcher Adams taking the place of Gerri Green, who was selected in the sixth round by the Indianapolis Colts. Either way, there is some speed and experience coming off the edges this season.
The defensive back field took a huge hit with the loss of Jonathan Abrams, but the Bulldogs had a solid recruiting class of defensive backs in 2019, which included Martin Emerson and Jarrian Jones to back up returning starters Maurice Smitherman and Cameron Dantzler. I don’t see a decline in our defensive backfield. At the strong safety (NICKEL) positions I look for Brian Cole to be filling that position just fine as long as he can stay healthy this season. Two other defensive backs with a good amount of experience are Jaquarius Landrews and C.J. Morgan. They both should be in a rotation at safety this season. Let’s not forget Marcus Murphy, either. Rumors have it that he is back on the offensive side this year but he could also provide defensive support if needed in the defensive back field.
As for the loss of Jeffery Simmons, this is going to be like pouring alcohol on a fresh cut because there is no replacing a player like that, period!!! You just don’t replace one of the best in the country that easily. I do think that four-star freshman Nathan Pickering (should have been a five-star) is going to fill his position very well this season with some growing pains, but at least he will get three non-conference games before we meet up with Kentucky. I look forward to seeing Pickering in New Orleans.
Currently, I don’t have anything that I would call ugly, but I will go as far to say that if the offensive struggles from last year are not fixed with a new quarterback and our second-year offensive-minded coach this season, things will be beyond ugly. Let’s face it, our offense struggled last season against SEC opponents, and our loss in the Outback Bowl was a terrible-at-best and a black eye for the entire SEC; I couldn’t sleep for a week.
So, as we move closer to the first game there is a lot to be excited about, and yes this team has the potential to do great things this season on both sides of the ball. I predict we head into Auburn 4-0 and sitting well inside of the top 25 polls. The Auburn game will be the contest that will either set State apart from the SEC West pack or secure our place in the middle or below in 2019. If we enter Auburn undefeated in September, this game could end up being one of the biggest contest of the season from a momentum standpoint. A loss in Auburn and we are looking at a tough road to eight wins with Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Alabama up next We would need to win at least two of those and then beat both Abilene Christian and Ole Miss. So where will we be in November? I look forward to each week to find out.
HAIL STATE AND GO DAWGS.