Bumphis Believes Offense Up To Dog Demands

Chad Bumphis was not shivering with anticipation. He'd just finished five mandatory minutes in the cold tank and even an August afternoon wasn't warming him fast enough. "I'm good, just a little cold that's all!" he said, struggling to stand straight for post-practice interviewing.

What is also good is how Bumphis and fellow Bulldogs will soon enough be heating things up on the field when Mississippi State opens this 2011 season. The countdown to kickoff begins just about the time Friday's evening scrimmage concludes, save for ensuing reviews and corrections. Or, if Coach Dan Mullen should feel the need for a Saturday morning transition from training camp mode to game mindset. It's up to how the players perform under the Scott Field lights.

So far, Bumphis believes, "It's been going good. We finished up at the Farm and I think everybody did pretty good out there. Both units are coming together, we've just got to keep working and getting ready for the first game."

The wide receiver's own review does run a bit counter to comments made by the coach this week. Heated comments, at that, as Mullen has expressed disappointment with offensive aspects. Bumphis can agree to a point. Such as with issues in execution that often leave plays a man short. Even this doesn't have Bumphis overly worried. For now.

"I think we're doing alright. It's just that everybody is not clicking at the same time. Like, every play it's one person missing an assignment or something. But I think it's something we can correct, I don't think it's anything major."

Considering just how closely a true junior like Bumphis has been in both installing and developing Mullen's offense over these three years, his opinion ought to count for something. So while the staff stresses perfect practice execution, the veteran play-maker has his own grading scale for where the unit stands here in mid-month.

Scrimmage results. That is a real indicator to Bumphis.

"It's not really hard to judge. Because I think our defense is real good so that means if we can move the ball on them I feel we'll be pretty successful."

And about his coach's ongoing critiques? Well, this Dog has another perspective to offer anyone concerned with State putting up points. Bumphis isn't arguing, understand, just taking a cooler view that the Bulldog bar has been raised and Mullen will accept nothing less than the best now.

"I think so. Most of the offense has been in the system for a year or two at least. His expectations are way higher than most people know, so I'm sure that has a lot to do with it."

Expectations absolutely are high for a Mississippi State offense which returns players responsible for all but one of the rushing or receiving touchdowns scored in 2010. Not to mention 99% of last year's rushing yards, 88% of all receptions, and everyone who threw a pass of any sort. Yep, that's what one might call an experienced bunch of skill personnel. Small wonder Mullen has larger expectations.

But just in case any of these veterans has been tempted to coast a bit over the summer or during training camp…

"Coach won't let that happen," avows Bumphis. "They're going to make sure we work every day and go out and get better. So complacency is not a problem with this team."

What looks like one developing problem, and a mighty welcome one at that, is finding ways to take full advantage of all the passing game playmaking potential. When Mullen arrived and got a good look at his 2009 spring roster his foremost fear was lack of both quality and depth at receiver(s). Two seasons later the situation is far stronger, if not quite where this coach wants just yet, and there are plenty of runners for routes this fall.

A good problem for the offensive staff indeed. Take Bumphis' own ‘H' receiver position, the slot man. It is an ideal place to line up a guy with the speed of a true split end, the strength and moves of a tailback, and the plain old game instincts of someone who would make a fine quarterback in other programs. Bumphis has certainly taken advantage of the spot by leading his team in catches consecutive seasons. He enters the junior year with 76 grabs and 1,009 yards, and should crack the Mississippi State top ten in both well before this season is out. For that matter he needs just five more catches for top-ten status there.

Unless, that is, the football gets spread-around a lot more this fall.

Take the H depth chart which includes Brandon Heavens, already a proven threat himself; gifted redshirt Jameon Lewis; and true frosh Devin Fosselman to boot. The rookie has had a strong camp and would be sure to play…if not for all those guys in front of him. Maybe he is activated, maybe not, but the real point is how stocked this position is.

And if the two split-end positions aren't equally stacked neither are they lagging far behind. "I think the thing is, we are at least three-deep at every position," Bumphis says. "So that's good for us. They can all play and being three-deep is good for anybody."

Well, with the possible exception of a player who might hope to be the typical top target. Fortunately Bumphis is not so worried about statistics, because it won't be a defense that keeps him from piling up numbers. It will be teammates taking turns. Including, he expects, his fellow H-men. There's no rule against playing two, even three slot guys at a time, after all.

"I mean, come the season gameplanning we'll have a lot of packages. You just don't know right now but there'll be a way to get us all on the field I'm sure."

Besides, what Bumphis might give up in catches he ought to make up in other touches. That above reference to running back ability was intentional. One of Mullen's pet plays is the end-around and nobody is a better threat in such a set than Bumphis. Why, if the receiver/runner has his way, he will even expand the repertoire further this fall.

Bumphis wants to show off his arm again. He was allowed to heave the ball a couple of times in 2009, including State's very first play from scrimmage. Nothing much came from it, and Bumphis didn't throw any passes at all in '10. "Yeah, it's been a while," he grins.

"And I beg Coach about it every day! So hopefully it's getting in his head a little bit."

Something that is in Mullen's mind more these days is getting some longer, bigger strikes from all his offensive veterans. Now that is music to Bumphis' Bulldog ears. "We're always looking for a big play. As an offense you want big plays; taking shots downfield, big runs, anything. But the main thing is we want to move the ball. Whichever way we have to do it, we will. But of course, we like big plays!"

This Friday night is time for a bunch of Dogs to make big plays, or at least execute the routine snaps perfectly as possible. Mullen wants to get into game-planning early next week and won't be happy having to spend Monday or Tuesday time cleaning up scrimmage mistakes. True, it is a team effort, but all Bumphis can do is his own primary receiver job while keeping an eye on cohorts there.

Most obviously, the redshirts and rookies. He has high hopes for the newer guys, such as Fosselman and split end Joe Morrow who already has shown something State needed more of. "He's just a long receiver who can stretch the defense downfield real quick." Meanwhile Lewis is positioning himself as well, including return team work. "Jameon, he can really play, it's about him understanding what offense and defenses are doing and then going out and doing it."

Having been thrown into the freshman fire himself two years ago, Bumphis definitely has been offering insight to youngsters about what is ahead. But, he adds, some aspects can only be experienced. Such as game speed, which means more than velocity.

"Like in high school there were no rolling coverages, you just ran! Now you've got to actually read on the run and the speed of the game is so much faster." Or game atmosphere. "It's a whole lot different when you're playing in front of fifty, sixty thousand people."

So, what is this older Dog's final piece of advice about scrimmaging tonight?

"Just go out and play!" Bumphis says. "Now it's just about going out and doing it."

Mullen is expected to meet with media Saturday to go over the closed scrimmage's results, and the plans for the coming week.

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