Unlike years past, Mississippi State will not have a veteran tight end that they can count on as their starter. Of the six players on the depth chart, there is one senior, one sophomore, three redshirt freshmen and two true freshmen that enrolled at State in January. The senior, Ty Freeman, is a junior college player who walked on a couple of years ago as a wide receiver and was converted to tight end for this spring after playing in three games last year, all on the special teams. The sophomore is Blake Pettit, a player that played in one game last year before suffering a season-ending elbow injury. Neither have started a game nor caught a pass during their very, very brief playing careers.
With the tight ends an important part of MSU's new West Coast offense, things don't look too good for Coach Kitchens. However, despite the inexperience, he sees some talent.
"The talent level could be on the same level as talent in the SEC if they continue to work," said Kitchens. "I don't think they are there right now, but if they continue to do the things that we are asking them to do and they continue to work hard, then they definitely will be. They are all young, young as far as their body, their strength, their experience."
So far, one player has stood out above the others, according to Kitchens.
"Blake Pettit is a little bit above the rest of them as far as maturity level and strength level," said Kitchens. "On the field, he would be in front of them due to those factors."
Behind Pettit, Kitchens has several players, including a couple of freshmen who have shown some things in the spring but are lacking in experience and maturity level.
"After (Pettit), you probably have Dezmond Sherrod and Austin Baxter," said Kitchens. "Dezmond has done some good things and is right up there near the top of the guys that we have to figure out if they are players or not. Austin Baxter, a walk-on (from Copiah Academy), has been a surprise. He has better size than any of them. He is a 260-pound guy who has decent running ability."
Two other players competing for spots on the depth chart are Freeman and Patterson.
"Linzy Patterson will do anything you ask him to do and will give effort. And half of the battle is effort," said Kitchens. "He needs to gain a lot of strength and gain some weight. Ty Freeman is a guy who might be able to contribute."
One other player, redshirt freshman Eric Butler, has not been able to compete during the spring due to an injury.
Even though he has a big job ahead of him, Kitchens is sure of one thing.
"We are going to have two or three of those guys who can play for us next year," said Kitchens.
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.