Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Lining Up the Bulldogs After Breaking Camp for Summer

It has been a thin spring for solid information about Mississippi State’s lineups and rotations in practices. Now that Dan Mullen has given the public a quick look at the club, some general ideas of a spring—and now summer—depth chart can be assembled.

Purely, we stress, for entertainment and argument.

The fact is several areas are known to be unsettled either by intent or by injuries. Mullen has said he will provide some final injury information when camp is entirely over. It ends with a Tuesday clean-up and review sort of practice saved for just this purpose.

The latter are obvious and most especially on the offensive line. When two recovering starters return for August, things will solidify fast.

The intent? Mullen and staff used this spring to induce competition in such areas as wide receivers, cornerbacks, and to a lesser extent safeties and linebackers. If one notices that most of the competition is on the defensive side, well, yeah. New coordinator Todd Grantham said everything was up for grabs in 2017. He meant it.

Grantham also left many trying to decipher the scheme. It seems best listed as, deep breath, a 3-1-2-3-2 sort of set with three safeties and a hybrid end/linebacker (don’t call it ‘viper’). Better, just call it all multiple because that is the idea.

So for now enjoy, evaluate, dispute, whatever suits the end-of-spring mood, about this entirely unofficial Dawgs Bite’ depth chart. If any names are missing yell at the author. The notations:  ‘*’ means injured and not participating in spring; ‘r’ means redshirted in 2016; ‘t’ means a new transfer.

 

QUARTERBACK: JR Nick Fitzgerald; FR Keytaon Thompson; rFR Logan Burnett

Just as would be expected. And, a dramatic difference from 2016 spring with its four-quarterback competition. This spring the only competitions were how much could the veteran and newcomer develop at their own stages. A summer walk-on will give a degree of depth for August scrimmaging and scout team duty.

 

RUNNING BACK: JR Aeris Williams, JR Dontavian Lee, SO Nick Gibson, SO Alec Murphy, SR Bennie Braswell

Williams had a good camp both on the practice field and in the interview room where suddenly he will talk of himself and team. Talk well, too. Coach Greg Knox praised what a healthy Lee is finally able to do. Everyone else can now praise Nick Gibson as a rising force in the backfield. Murphy was limited by a hand injury much of camp but did scrimmage Saturday some.

 

TIGHT END: SO Farrod Green, JR Justin Johnson, SR Jordan Thomas, rFR Christian Roberson, rFR Dontea Jones, JR Aaron Hamaker

The deepest position on the team? That’s good in itself. Even better is these guys can make plays. Green and Johnson didn’t play Saturday and didn’t have to. Thomas had the best catch of the game in their absence, as he and Roberson mature and Jones is now healthy and making up lost ground.

 

WIDE RECEIVER: SR Donald Gray, SO Jamal Couch, rFR Osirus Mitchell, FR Austin Williams

SLOT RECEIVER: SO Keith Mixon, SO Deddrick Thomas, FR Travis O’Connor, *JR Malik Dear

WIDE RECEIVER: SR Gabe Myles, rFR Reggie Todd, *JR Jesse Jackson

Once past the veteran wideouts there is still more promise than proof. We know what Gray can and will do. Mixon has showed enough flashes in rotation, though the knee injury to Dear chops proven slot-depth in half. Might Myles move there eventually? Maybe no need if Thomas steps it up. Couch should be ready to perform. Todd doesn’t seem to have built on bowl camp flashes, though, while Mitchell and Williams are going to have to accelerate things over summer out of depth need. Jackson was able to play Saturday after missing a lot of camp with a shoulder problem, so we’ll see come August if he’s ready.

 

LEFT TACKLE: rFR Greg Eiland, tJR Tyre Phillips

LEFT GUARD: SO Michael Story, rFR Dareaun Parker, SO Brett Armour, *JR Elgton Jenkins

CENTER: SR Martinas Rankin, SO Harrison Moon, FR Blake Mitchell, *JR Deion Calhoun

RIGHT GUARD: tJR Tommy Champion, SO Darryl Williams, JR Jawon Johnson

RIGHT TACKLE: rFR Stewart Reese, SO Evans Wilkerson, JR Ronald Cochran

Odd as it will seem initially, there is more of a positive impression here than maybe observations merit. Put another way: the limitations imposed by injuries may do more for the line unit in the long run than the short term. Explain? Well, as there’s enough confidence Calhoun will be a capable center; and Jenkins has proven his place at guard and if necessary tackle; this spring did develop some depth. And variety, too, such as being able to swing Rankin inside or outside. Tackles development really needed the extra snaps, too, as Reese, Eiland, and Phillips are the future. Now, when Jenkins returns, then we will see how all those young and/or juco guards shake out.

 

DEFENSIVE END: SO Fletcher Adams, rFR Kobe Jones, tJR Chauncey Rivers, SO Kendall Jones

NOSE TACKLE: SO Jeffery Simmons, rJR Tre Brown, tJR Lee Autry, FR James Jackson

TACKLE: SR Cory Thomas, JR Braxton Hoyette, tJR Deion Pope, JR Grant Harris

END/OUTSIDE LINEBACKER: JR Gerri Green, tJR Montez Sweat, SO Marquiss Spencer

That…is a lot of big bodies. That, is a key to success in this league. Nor does a depth chart mean much here. Because if the spring game is a good indication, and one can hope it was based on results, starting only means getting the first couple of snaps before a constant rotation of alternates (not backups) bring fresh legs to the field. If it can keep everyone happy and on the MSU roster, look out. Oh, and while nobody is using the ‘viper’ label, it still looks an awful lot like how 2016 lined up. It just looks like now it, you know, works.

 

INSIDE LINEBACKER: SO Leo Lewis, SR Traver Jung, JR Josiah Phillips, FR Chris Redmon

INSIDE LINEBACKER: SR Dezmond Harris, rFR Erroll Thompson, SO Tim Washington

STAR LINEBACKER/SAFETY: SR J.T. Gray, FR Cameron Miller

Sitting Lewis and Harris for the spring game was wise. Especially given the latter’s long injury history. Because after playing a healthy year Harris is showing why he got such rookie raves years ago. We know well what Lewis can do, as does a rival too. The scheme is ‘tighter’ though than before with both linebackers playing well-inside the tackles. Almost co-middle ‘backers sort of? Well, by fall one will tend strong-side and the other weak-side…but both have the range to stay in close until the ball is snapped. Gray got big reviews as the true outside linebacker playing almost as a third strong safety in some sets.

 

SAFETY: JR Mark McLaurin, tJR Brian Cole, tJR Jacquarius Landrews

SAFETY: JR Brandon Bryant, tJR Jonathan Abram, rFR C.J. Morgan, JR Hayes Walker

The whole secondary got Saturday’s biggest praise with all the interceptions. What matters more in real season terms though is this: they tackled. The safeties in particular. They both hit and stopped the ball upon contact much, much better. Bryant did not play nor need to as everyone asked said he’s back on track. Reports that Abram is a headhunter were confirmed, not least by the game’s unplanned final play (Brasswell is OK by the way). There still is not a completely defined difference in strong and free, and essentially it was a three-safeties set all spring game anyway. Is that what we’ll see come season? If these guys hit and tackle, go for it.

 

CORNERBACK: JR Jamal Peters, rFR Cameron Dantzler, JR Chris Rayford, FR Tyler Williams, *SO Maurice Smitherman

CORNERBACK: SR Lashard Durr, SO Chris Stamps, rFR Korey Charles, *SR Tolando Cleveland

OK, so two things. Once past Peters and Durr, all else is guesswork whether who outranks who or which side they will work. We did see that, if only for the spring game, Peters was working the boundary side mostly; and Durr the field side. Everyone is supposed to be able to play either, equally. We only list Dantzler on the same side and behind Peters because that’s what he has told us. But when he gets healthy elder Dog Cleveland along with Durr and others best watch out for this kid. That unplanned redshirt year may turn out to have been his best break ever.


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