Justin Jenkins, MSU's leader in receptions last year with 62 for 880 yards and 9 touchdowns, has graduated. Another player, sophomore Omarr Conner, caught 14 passes for 211 yards last season. Omarr was moved back to his high school position, quarterback, at the start of the spring.
Despite the two losses, second-year wide receiver coach Guy Holliday still feels very good about what he has coming back. He also likes the new offense and believes it will give his players a chance to shine.
"We will be competitive," said Holliday. "Physically, we will be ready to play. The West Coast offense is a great offense. If you can run the ball in it, that means the defense has to bring safeties up, which allows you one-on-one coverage. It is also going to take receivers that have a little savvy about them because they are going to have to catch short passes in a crowd."
Holliday does have one concern, though.
"My concern is finding that one great player," said Holiday. "I remember last year all I heard was how terrible our receivers were. But, it's like clockwork, somebody will jump out and be a rabbit and step up."
Last year, Jenkins was that rabbit. Who will the rabbit be this year? Holliday, based on what he saw last year and this spring, has several players in mind with one being slightly ahead of the others.
"Of all the players I have been around since I have been here, Ray Ray (Bivines) has all the physical tools," said Holliday, who saw Ray Ray make 26 catches for 324 yards and 1 touchdown last season. "Justin Jenkins was getting all the praise and rightfully so last year, but up until he got hurt, Ray Ray was the most consistent. He was the guy who moved the chains. I have a lot of respect for Ray Ray and his knowledge of the game."
Ray Ray, due to last year's injury, has not been able to participate in much of spring practice.
"His injury last year may have been one of the worst that I have ever seen," said Holliday. "I've never helped a player off the field but I saw that first-hand and felt bad for him."
While Ray Ray is expected to be MSU's go-to receiver next season, two other receivers, senior McKinley Scott (29 catches, 391 yards, 1 TD) and junior Tee Milons (9-83-1), have really impressed Holliday this spring.
"McKinley is the same guy as last year," said Holliday. "He is eager to lean. He is very intelligent and physically gifted. He is not a speedster, but he is well-developed in his route running and has great feet and really good hips. I think he is going to have a great year.
"The difference between Tee Milons this year and last year is he has come ready to work. It has never been a physical issue with him. He has some unbelievable physical gifts. It has always been mental. This year, I see him giving extra effort and trying to be a little tougher, trying to push through things. He's not quite where he needs to be. He hasn't jumped over the wall, but he is standing right on top and is ready to jump in and be the player that he can be."
Another receiver, sophomore Brandon Wright, has also stood out.
"After those two, Brandon Wright would be the next split end," said Holliday. "We redshirted Brandon last year because I didn't think he was ready. I think it has helped him tremendously because he has matured a great deal.
"So far, in my mind, Brandon, Tee and McKinley have really stuck out this spring. The improvement in those three is amazing. Different guys come along at different times. Brandon Wright and Tee Milons have definitely improved. McKinley was a good football player for us last year. He continues to improve."
Another veteran wide receiver, sophomore Will Prosser, also fits into next year's plans.
"If we went to a four-receiver set, Will Prosser would be the guy we would use," said Holliday. "He shows some things. Will is probably going to be a role player. We know that and really have to find a role for him. He is very dependable catching the ball, although he doesn't always make the great play. But you always want dependable people, which Will is."
The final veteran on the team, senior Antonio Hargro (2 catches, 49 yards, 1 TD), has been an underachiever his entire career. He is one of the most talented wide receivers on the team, but has never proven it on the field. Does Holliday feel he is ready to be a productive member of the team? Based on what he has seen in the spring, the results have been mixed.
"Antonio Hargro is an up and down guy," said Holliday. "The positives are he can make a big play and he is working hard and giving good effort. The negative would be his overall consistency. He is physically gifted, but you have to be consistent if you want to play, particularly in this offense."
A couple of redshirt freshmen, Tyler Threadgill and Joey Sanders, could figure prominently in next year's plans.
"Tyler Threadgill has great physical tools," said Holliday. "He was redshirted last year. He is kind of in the Brandon Wright mode from last year. Sometimes we rush guys, thinking that, because they are physically ready, they can play. But what people need to realize is he never played receiver until last year. The more he learns, the more confident he will get. It just takes time. I probably drive him extremely hard because I know he has the physical tools. He has things you can't coach and one of them is speed.
"Joey Sanders, when he has been healthy, has shown the ability to do some good things. He's had a hamstring pull and we have to get him healthy. When we get him healthy, he should be able to help us.
A third redshirt freshman, Jason Husband, has been injured all spring. Because of that, Holliday isn't really sure what to expect from him.
"Jason is a young guy that we haven't had a chance to see due to his injury," said Holliday. "He has great size and is a great young man. I think he will be a contributor."
Two walkons, Damon Berry and C.J. Smith, have also shown some potential during the spring.
"Damon Berry has unbelievable speed, but has to show a little bit of toughness in catching the ball inside," said Holliday. "But he is only a freshman. When people say this freshman can't do it, I think that is so unfair because they get mentally and physically better.
"C.J. Smith has some tools, but is going to have to redshirt because he is a little raw."
Overall, there is no doubt that this group has some talent. Once MSU gets Bivines back in the lineup, the wide receiver group should be one of the strengths on the team.
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.