See? Simple. Long, but simple. As Gus Walley and his cohorts at tight end and big slot receivers show up on the practice field every day, they try to do…everything.
“I mean we catch every day, we block every day, we run routes every day. We just work on stuff we’re going to do in the season.”
If spring scrimmages and Walley’s own efforts are any fair indicators, Mississippi State will have a lot of stuff for these players to do during the 2015 season. This year, though, with the play-call scales tipping a bit more towards the catching part.
Walley got a taste of this potential future during his sophomore season. Playing in a dozen games he ran enough routes to catch four balls for 49 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown against UAB. Most of the action for his position of course went to Malcolm Johnson with 28 catches and three scores. So it’s easy to assume the graduated Johnson’s snaps will go to his successor.
But in Walley’s case there’s more to it. He carries about the same weight, at 235 pounds or so; but is two inches taller on the roster and looks even ‘longer’ when working his routes. Walley has the right speed to go with the moves from his slot side, too, and present a target easy for the passer to pick up in traffic.
It is another way of saying that compared to traditional tight ends here, Walley appears to suit Coach Dan Mullen’s concepts for the position.
“Yeah, I think I do,” Walley said. “Some people don’t and some people do. But Mullen likes me! Everybody else likes me. So I do what I can.”
Which gets us back to what Walley is doing this time of the calendar. Reporting date is officially a week from Sunday, but the junior has been on campus all summer anyway. And, as noted already, putting himself through those paces.
“I guess everybody can say it’s been hot! I can tell you that, it’s been real hot. But we’re just working as hard as we can every day. Nothing really has changed. The expectations are still the same. It’s just different faces with the same role.”
Those expectations are for pass-catching and run-blocking production. 2015 is his chance to step into the starting lineup at last. In Walley’s case though there is another, added responsibility he’s begun feeling.
“Because being the leader of my group I have to come out every day with the mindset of getting better. Even after a hard workout, a hard run, we still have to come back and do stuff. And it’s hard to say well, I’ve got to go today, I’ve got to get these other guys ready to go. That’s been kind of hard but it’s been alright.”
As to the technical aspects, Walley can’t point to isolated items of summer focus. “I’ve worked on everything just about as hard as I can. There’s not one thing I’ve worked extra-hard on. It’s everything.” Or everyone. Because this summer Bulldog receivers, tight or slot or split or whatever, find themselves catching ball from not one, not two, not three or four quarterbacks.
Passes are being fired by five Dogs now. And to make the best of limited preseason practicing hours it’s essential receivers get a good ‘feel’ for everyone they might end up working with in August.
Dak Prescott, yeah that’s a pretty known (i.e. All-SEC) quality and Walley knows how he is going to deliver the football. “Oh, great. As always great.” The word is about as positive for the underclassmen quartet, too.
“Damian Williams is doing good. So is Fitz (Nick Fitzgerald) and Elijah (Staley). And the new kid, Nick Tiano is doing great. So everybody is on board.”
On board, on hand, and on the practice field as the summer season runs down. Remember, “Two a days is fixing to start here before too long,” Walley said. So it’s back out in the heat to do everything a Mississippi State tight end can be asked to do in a true 2015 game.
“Just without pads.”