Husband Welcomes Early Promotion

Jason Husband admits it, he doesn't have a lot of background information about the neck of the woods Mississippi State's upcoming opponent hails from. "Cold?" he suggests, when asked what he knows of Maine. "It's up north, I haven't been there," Husband adds, noting his own travels have tended to other points of the compass such as Florida, Cancun, and Jamaica.

But if the Mississippi State wide receiver doesn't have much to say about state of Maine, he will always remember the opponent against whom he made his first college start. Husband has drawn the opening assignment at split end for the Bulldogs' game with the Black Bears.

"I'm very proud," the Jackson, Miss., native says. "To be able to start is just amazing coming in your redshirt freshman year. I'm just happy to be on the field pretty much."

A starting job in the third game of his first varsity season shouldn't be all that amazing, really. Husband has played well so far this September, particularly the past weekend when he was one of the rare bright spots in a 43-14 loss to Auburn. He accounted for both of Mississippi State's touchdowns with grabs of one and nine yards, each thrown by backup quarterback Kyle York.

True, the scores came after State was down six scores and long out of contention. And they were against the Tiger number-two defense. Still Coach Sylvester Croom liked how his young receiver went about business, particularly the second-effort he made to lunge across the line while in a tackler's grasp to put a second touchdown on the board.

Those two plays, and the consistency Husband has put into getting ready for games, all have convinced the coach that the second-year rookie merits a starting job this week. "I guess he sees me work hard every day in practice and in the scrimmages we have," Husband said. "I still have problems with stuff, but I guess I just got the chance now."

The opportunities for Husband and other young State pass-catchers have also been greater than anticipated because some of their elders are hurting. Senior Ray Ray Bivines has not practiced for-real for almost a year now since his November injury at Tennessee, and each week is more doubtful for the entire 2004 season. And against Auburn senior McKinley Scott aggravated the hamstring that limited him in August drills. He's out at least one week.

So Husband is also in the right place at the right time…for him, that is. "It's disappointing that Ray and McKinley got hurt, I hate that for them," the youngster says. "But we have other players that can step in and do the job."

Such as third-year soph Will Prosser, who will start at the other wide-receiver slot. Husband likes working with his fellow underclassman and says Prosser has helped him learn some tricks of this run-and-catch trade. And, Husband adds, he has so much left to learn. "Mainly I need to work on my speed and route-running. Being tall it's hard to get low and come off of a cut."

Now don't get the idea that the 6-2, 208-pound Husband is complaining about the stature God gave him. In fact he looks even taller than the listed height. But there are some issues that come with size at his chosen position. Blocking shorter defensive backs, for one. "It's hard for me to get pad-level low most times and that's something I have to work on." He also has to lean into his turns more than a shorter man, thus tipping off the coverage about a coming cut.

The solution, Husband says, is to be almost perfect in running routes…something he never had to do at lower levels when he was just better than the coverage. "I didn't get used to it in high school, and now in the West Coast offense we have to run everything exact." And when he gets it exactly right, Husband's height can become an advantage the quarterback appreciates.

"It helps me out, it gives the quarterback a bigger target to throw to. And I can create separation because I believe I've got strength to help me out."

Husband is going to become and even bigger help to State's entire offense as he develops in this system. That brings up an interesting point, because when he signed on Husband actually wondered just how much work he would get here. Not because of his ability, but because of the offensive style the Bulldogs used to feature.

"Coming out of high school they'd say Mississippi State is a running team, it's going to run all the time," Husband related. "But I felt if I came here I could contribute to the team. And when Coach Croom came with the West Coast offense it made me happy, I could see we were going to be throwing the ball more."

A lot more. And now Husband is getting his opportunity to catch those balls as a SEC starter a lot sooner than he had expected. He might not know a whole lot about Maine, but he understands quite clearly how big this opportunity is to climb the wide receiver ladder at Mississippi State.

"Everybody practices hard and makes plays," he said. "It's just that I can work hard and do it, learn the plays."

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