Mississippi State Bulldogs
2008 record: 4-8 (2-6 SEC, T-4th West)
Head coach: Dan Mullen (first year)
Returning Starters: 11; 6 offense, 5 defense
Leaders on Each Side: RB – Anthony Dixon, LB Jamar Chaney
With the transition from Sylvester Croom to Dan Mullen came the spread offense, which should shake up the Bulldog’s play calling of the past in a hurry.
The offense returns heavy hitters in running back Anthony Dixon and wide receiver Brandon McRae, but the rest of the gang remains unproven.
Tyler Russell, Mississippi’s Mr. Football in 2008, will be given his shots to land the quarterback job. Running Mullen’s spread attack should be right up the Meridian-native’s alley.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Bulldogs return five starters – but lose Mr. Everything safety Derek Pegues. Jamar Chaney returns from injury to shore up the strongside linebacker spot, a unit that defensive coordinator Carl Torbush will look to for leadership on Saturdays this fall.
With road contests against Auburn and Vanderbilt on tap before the Tigers arrive to Starkville on Sept. 26, one thing is certain: the Bulldogs will have their new spread broken in by the time LSU gets to town.
Tyson Lee – 5’10”, 200, Sr.
Tyler Russell – 6’5”, 220, Fr.
Chris Relf – 6’3”, 235, So.
Tyson Lee, the incumbent quarterback, will get his chances to defend his starting spot under center.
Yet, freshman Tyler Russell is a handpicked Mullen recruit, and the skipper is surely hoping to get the four-star prospect onto the field sooner than later.
Russell might be inexperienced, but the Meridian High standout has the tools. At 5-foot-10, Lee is working twice as hard to overcome his height disadvantage. With the 6-foot-5 Russell waiting in the wings, the quarterback duties might be handed over quicker than many expect.
If Mullen works to his third option, expect sophomore Chris Relf to take the snaps.
Anthony Dixon – 6’1”, 235, Sr.
Christian Ducre – 6’0”, 220, Sr.
Anthony Dixon is the big name to watch. The senior returns to the Bulldog lineup after rushing for 869 yards and seven touchdowns last fall. The year prior, the Jackson-native went over the 1,000-yard mark.
Christian Ducre will get touches behind Dixon. The Mandeville-native saw his carries and yards cut in half last season compared to 2007, which will leave the Louisiana product hungry for his shot.
Mullen has made it clear that the Bulldogs will be a spread team that focuses on moving the ball on the ground, so Dixon and Ducre should have their plates full.
Wide Receivers and Tight End
Brandon McRae – 6’4”, 205, Sr.
Leon Berry – 6’0”, 190, Jr.
Delmon Robinson – 5’9”, 180, So.
Chad Bumphis – 5’10”, 195, Fr.
TE – Brandon Henderson – 6’2”, 255, Jr.
Brandon McRae, the Bulldogs leading pass catcher in 2008, is back for his senior campaign. Last fall, the Virginia-native hauled in 51 passes for 518 yards and three touchdowns – numbers that will need to increase if Mullen hopes to see the Bulldogs flourish under the spread.
Junior College transfer Leon Berry should make an early splash, while Delmon Robinson will attempt to fend off a surge of freshman talent for the third spot.
Chad Bumphis, Maurice Langston and Chris Smith are all new faces to keep an eye on, as many expect Mullen to begin moving his recruits into the frame in a hurry.
Derek Sherrod – 6’6”, 310, Jr.
Craig Jenkins – 6’5”, 315, Sr.
J.C. Brignone – 6’1”, 300, Jr.
Quentin Saulsberry – 6’2”, 300, So.
Addison Lawrence – 6’4”, 295, So.
Whoever the quarterback is, they will have a bit of security in front of them as three of the five starters return to the offensive line.
Derek Sherrod is back at his left tackle post, while junior J.C. Brignone and sophomore Quentin Saulsberry return at center and right guard, respectively.
With a new playbook in place, will the offensive line be able to provide the breathing room that Lee and Co. never had in 2008?
Sean Ferguson – 6’3”, 245, So.
Kyle Love – 6’1”, 310, Sr.
Pernell McPhee – 6’3”, 275, Jr.
Brandon Cooper – 6’1”, 255, Jr.
Sean Ferguson and Kyle Love are back from the 2008 starting rotation, joined by first-time starters Pernell McPhee and Brandon Cooper.
Love, a senior who is eyeing his third season of consistent playing time, joins up with McPhee to create an effective run-stopping tandem in the middle.
What develops on the outside of the line, however, will make or break the unit for first year coordinator Carl Torbush, a former North Carolina head coach.
K.J. Wright – 6’4”, 245, Jr.
Jamar Chaney – 6’1”, 245, Sr.
Chris White – 6’3”, 245, Jr.
With Jamar Chaney healthy after injuring his ankle in the first game of the 2008 season, the linebacker corps appears to be the strong suit for the Bulldog defense.
K.J. Wright, an up-and-coming junior who flashed signs of brilliance last fall, will be relied on as well. Wright recorded 72 tackles in 2008, second only to Dominic Douglas (116), who is lost to graduation.
Chris White should lock up the final spot, leaving junior Karlin Brown – who logged 34 tackles last fall - to produce off the bench.
Marcus Washington – 5’10”, 190, Sr.
Damein Anderson – 5’11”, 195, So.
Charles Mitchell – 5’11”, 205, So.
Zach Smith – 5’11”, 200, Jr.
Marcus Washington is the lone returning starter to the group. Last fall, the senior was in on 44 tackles, four sacks, four pass break ups and a team-high three forced fumbles.
Charles Mitchell, who logged 31 tackles in a reserve role in 2008, will get the start at strong safety, while junior Zach Smith will get looks at free safety. Smith logged 43 tackles off the bench during his sophomore campaign.
Sean Brauchle – 5’10”, 180, Jr.
Heath Hutchens – 6’1”, 215, Jr.
The production from special teams will come courtesy of a pair of offseason additions: junior college punter Heath Hutchens and junior college kicker Sean Brauchle.
Brauchle caught Mullen’s eye with a breakout spring, while Hutchens was brought in with the intent of taking over the starting punter role.