Our 2013 Mississippi State Football Preview examines the offensive and defensive challenges for the Bulldogs. Clearly, the defense is talented, but can the defense keep the team in games until the offense matures? Read on for more information on this year’s team.
2013 Mississippi State Football Preview
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen enters his fifth season in Starkville this season, and there’s no doubt Mullen has high expectations for himself, but with a less than dominant offensive roster, it’s hard to believe that the Bulldogs will be able to reach Mullen’s expectations. Although they won’t be an SEC champion this season, they will be a team that’s fun to watch due to their offensive spread.
Seemingly made to run the spread offense, quarterback Tyler Russell appears to have all the attributes that Mullen is looking for, and as a senior, the Bulldogs’ offense is built around the pro-style quarterback. Much like Aaron Murray, Wilson likes to drop back and observe the whole field before making a throw to his target. And when a quarterback like this gets good protection, he can often hurt defenses by finding a receiver deep downfield.
Russell’s combination of experience and pro-style ability make him a challenge defensively, but his lack of mobility leaves him vulnerable to pass rushers, something teams will no doubt seek to employ on the fifth year senior.
Russell will have to improve on his consistency this season. After throwing six interceptions in his final two games last year, Russell has to correct the poor decision-making that hurts his team and compromises their chances. Everyone makes mistakes, but at quarterback, you only get so many chances before someone else takes the reigns.
Unfortunately for Russell, the team will rely heavily on his ability to make plays due to lack of weapons on the offensive side of the ball. So much so that wide receiver Brandon Halloway had to step-up and fill in as the Bulldogs running back at the maroon and white game with senior LaDarius Perkins and sophomore Josh Robinson both sitting out due to injury.
Although it started as a joke, Holloway said that he just wanted to help his team win, and in the process might’ve turned some heads with his natural running ability. With sub-4.3 40 speed, the converted back rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns on only twelve carries. At this time, it’s still unclear regarding his role with the offense this season. But his speed makes him an interesting option for a spread offense where he will have plenty blockers to give him the chance to get into the open field.
If Holloway does end up staying at running back and winning the job, it most likely helps the overall offensive attack by adding a second dimension to this pass heavy team. But the one area that will suffer is a wide receiver corps which is already thin at best. Not a single starter is returning to the team this year, and it remains to be seen if Russell is good enough to find success in the passing game by himself.
The saving grace for Russell is returning back-up Jameon Lewis, an athletic receiver that has played a total of four positions in his tenure at Mississippi State. This season the 5’9″ receiver won’t be bouncing around so much as he’ll have to step up time and time again if the Bulldogs want to have a start similar to last season. As a starter, Lewis will run a lot of short routes where he will be forced to catch the ball and then make openings to try and advance the ball downfield.
On the defensive side of the ball, however, experience and depth round out a talented run-stopping team. Anchored by linebackers Deontae Skinner and Benadrick McKinney, the Bulldogs are great at closing rushing lanes and wrapping up the tackler. Most teams will have to first find success through the air before they can muster a running attack, and even then this veteran defense will do a yeoman’s job of keeping the Bulldogs in games against teams like Auburn and Kentucky, but this should be another year of fighting tooth and nail for an elusive 7th or 8th win. We at capstonereport.com simply “Don’t Believe” the Dogs can do much else than what’s been seen in recent years.
Thanks for checking out our 2013 Mississippi State Football Preview. Come back tomorrow as we examine Ole Miss.
—Special to the Capstone Report by Alex DeRemer.