Post-Spring Depth Chart Review, Part II

As the Bulldog players take care of classroom obligations and weightroom assignments, the Mississippi State staff is wrapping up evaluations of spring football practices and filling in slots on the summer depth chart. Their official off-season list hasn't been published, but in the interim Dawgs' Bite offers this wrap-up of how each position lined up at the end of camp.

Monday, the offensive depth chart was reviewed. Here the defense and specialists are listed based strictly off on-site observations of practices and scrimmages. The last few summers there have been shifts and outright moves going into pre-season, so take this as an informal starting point for debate and discussion until the Bulldogs get back on the practice field in August.

LEFT END

90 Cortez McRaney SR-1L; 64 Davonne Wilson SO-SQ.

The staff spent three-plus weeks looking for the best overall package here, and on the 14th day of camp settled on end-turned-tackle-turned end again Quinton Wesley. Five hours later he was off the team and out of school. It wasn't a good day for the left end of either Bulldog line for that matter. Losing Wesley isn't nearly as painful as losing LOT Mike Brown, of course, though there were hopes by returning him to DE and shedding a few pounds Wesley would put some pass-rush punch in the mix.

Now, former end-turned-'07 starting tackle McRaney goes back to end and into fall as #1. It's an easy move for the senior and provides run-defense bulk against the offense's right side; chasing quarterbacks is another matter.

It's a reasonable assumption that initially somebody(s) on the right end will get August looks here, such as Brandon Cooper or maybe Charles Burns.

The better bet is that one of the incoming freshmen d-linemen will open college practice #2 by default, and if he (or better, they) proves able to go after passers playing time is assured. Makes one wonder if there is any talk in defensive staff meetings these days of working in additional odd-man fronts (State did have a few for situational use last year) as more than just a fall-back position.

LEFT TACKLE

95 KYLE LOVE JR-2L; 96 Reggie Odom SO-SQ; 91 Rodney Prince SO-1L.

No surprise here, that veteran Love had a good spring and held his position practically unchallenged.

Depth is the obvious question. In fact it already was even before Prince was caught up in the events of March 27 and this week dropped out.

Prince might have gone back to end anyway, pending progress by Odom. The husky soph definitely looks the part and there were practice days he worked like a big guy wanting to play the game. Just not enough of them yet to count on. The encouraging aspect is that there are two top-notch guys at right tackle, and surely a rotation comparable to what State did in '06 with three reliable tackles for two spots can be devised. Again, anticipate early-and-often duty for some members of the incoming class.

RIGHT TACKLE

94 JESSIE BOWMAN SR-1L; 98 LAMARCUS WILLIAMS SO-1L; 69 Anthony Smith JR-SQ.

Just like at ROG, there are two starters for the same position. Bowman of course is the better and more consistent of the pair as would be expected of the older guy. And he had the sort of camp an old hand should, too.

For his part Williams is exactly the caliber of backup needed for the SEC, just a notch behind the starter…for now. It's his long-term potential that might be better, and keeps Bowman on his cleat-toes. That's also why, barring some precociously capable new kid able to step right in at #2 (keep the fingers crossed all summer) Williams might well end up alternating at left tackle as well. We'll know more a week into August what the staff has figured out over the summer...and who might still be available for re-insertion on the depth chart.

RIGHT END

*39 TIM BAILEY SR-2L; *93 Brandon Cooper SO-1L; 97 Jimmie Holmes SR-1L; *92 Charles Burns SR-2L.

The ‘*' really did come into play over the course of camp at this position, but interestingly not in an entirely bad way. Bailey was able to get in nearly three full weeks of work during which he performed satisfactorily, even showing at times he can replace at least some of the pass-rush skills lost with Avery Hannibal. So he'll stay first-team over the summer.

And his minor calf injury coincided quite nicely with the last-week return of Cooper from a shoulder procedure. Those few active days allowed the soph, who caught a few eyes in relief work last fall, to show signs he might be ready for more than merely backup duties now. Signs and might, because there weren't enough observed snaps for non-coaches to really evaluate. Safe to say that video will get lots of looks in coming weeks.

Ditto for Holmes; as a transfer he had some nice early-season plays in the passing game then his production tailed off. But since pass-pressuring is a clear need he's very much in the mix. Either he or Cooper might find themselves turning left-wards over the summer, too.

And Burns? He hasn't been able to do any serious work for a year now with that '07 summer shoulder surgery, yet was able to start twice back in '06 at end. He's one of several Dogs, on both sides of the ball, who need to start making their case for fall opportunity with 110% summers. Maybe 120%. Goodness knows he could be a big boost and might spare a rookie from getting thrown into too-early duty out of depth-necessity.

MIDDLE LINEBACKER

22 JAMAR CHANEY SR-3L; 33 Jamie Jones FR-RS.

With the starting job in Chaney's very capable hands spring was about honing the backup and '09 heir. Or at least until Jamon Hughes got himself suspended for early fall—but was still required to practice because, as Croom said, spring suspension "is a joke." This also kept Hughes from maybe getting a look elsewhere, though with his now being out that would have taken turns from somebody else. Why couldn't the kids have gotten in trouble in February, not right at the end of camp? Oh, well, better than late August.

And there was good news in the middle for now and the future as redshirt Jones didn't just ascend to #2 status by default; the youngster practiced well given greater opportunity. How many live snaps he gets in fall naturally depends, but it's good to have a young middle ‘backer at the ready and presumably also able to help out on special teams. Which is a fair commentary on some of the personnel State signed in '07, too. Factor in some other second-year defenders at other positions and the class looks ever-better, eh?

STRONG-SIDE LINEBACKER

34 K.J. Wright SO-1L, 49 Terrell Johnson FR-RS; 27 Jarvis Kyles JR-1L.

True, Gabe O'Neal took a lot of experience and savvy. Yet athletically Wright really looks like an upgrade, a bigger guy with more range who only needs to accumulate his predecessor's snaps. No wonder there was thought last year he might grow into a d-end; of course he can always line up as a really outside linebacker and help out on the front.

From the sideline Johnson doesn't look 6-2 or 210, but he is. And he's another of those '07 recruits that State was fortunately able to redshirt, as tempting as it was to let him get some kick-game snaps last year. He and Wright should be able to handle tight ends and fullbacks as needed, and still be able to sneak in after passers on occasion.

Kyles is still officially a safety but did take a few practice turns at linebacker when the kids had to take a day or two off for minor injuries.

WEAK-SIDE LINEBACKER

10 DOMINIC DOUGLAS SR-1L; *52 Karlin Brown SO-1L; 45 Mike Hunt FR-GS.

Was there a better ‘find' for State's defense last year than juco Douglas? (I toss in the defense part because Wes Carroll might end up the greatest ‘find' of his MSU era.) Douglas also points to State's going with a trend of playing defensive guys ‘up' a position for their speed and reactions; i.e., corners as safeties, safeties as linebackers, and linebackers as ends. OK, back to this position. As a known factor and a senior—something you'll notice is common on the '08 defense—there was at least as much interest in settling depth for fall and the future.

Until turning the knee Brown was looking quite good and the injury shouldn't have any after-effects.

That also gave Hunt more chances to speed up his development after sitting out last year as a grayshirt. Hunt still looks more like a safety than a ‘backer, but then that's kind of the point, right? Especially since State needs to find other ways of going after quarterbacks in the post-T.Brown era. Should we look for the WLB to play a bit more, oh, recklessly?

LEFT CORNERBACK

23 JASPER O'QUINN SR-1L; 28 TAY BOWSER JR-2L; *11 ANTHONY JOHNSON JR-2L.

Two key facts to recall about Johnson. First, the guy absolutely has pro potential. Second, the defense still was able to survive losing him on the first series of the Egg Bowl and go on to win that game, as well as the Liberty Bowl. Yes, everyone had hopes Johnson would somehow still on the roster and in the lineup…but there are other corners here who can cover.

O'Quinn started the last six games at right corner but spent all spring first-team at left and took care of his business quite competently. Enough so to hold off Bowser, who had a start of his own last year at RCB and kept the pressure on during camp. O'Quinn also got a look or two as a nickel back one day.

Again, Johnson's absence is a legit cause for concern as losing a talent always hurts. Still it's not as if State will have a void out on the left corner for foes to focus on. They might be surprised what happens if they try.

RIGHT CORNERBACK

MARCUS WASHINGTON JR-2L; 26 Damein Anderson FR-RS.

Washington hit some sort of ‘wall' midway of 2007, losing his starting job at RCB after opening six of seven games. Then given a chance again in the Liberty Bowl he played well enough to start spring first-team, which he maintained all camp. Perhaps it was a couple years' maturity.

Or, redshirt Anderson's presence that added the necessary inspiration to keep proving himself. Anderson didn't catch any eyes the first two weeks but by the end of camp he'd gotten up to speed and was looking like a kid ready to play some ball. This will be a spot to watch in August.

STRONG SAFETY

1 KEITH FITZHUGH SR-3L; 8 DE'MON GLANTON SR-3L; 40 Chris Nance SR-1L.

Ain't it nice having two seniors of near-equal ability and experience? Sometimes it seemed the only real advantage Fitzhugh had over classmate Glanton was his big-grin, big-talk, big fun attitude. State can be comfortable with either on the field in most any situation. And of course they'll both be out there often enough together because Glanton is the extra DB in nickel packages.

The thing is, Nance can play the game too, which makes this the deepest position on the defense. The only downside is, they're all seniors. Enjoy their last act this fall, while we watch August camp for who might take over in '09.

FREE SAFETY

3 DEREK PEGUES SR-3L; 42 Zach Smith SO-1L.

What is there to say about Pegues but, will to ponder if he will make the transition from All-SEC to All-American? He certainly practiced that way in his final college spring, and that's all the review necessary.

It takes an all-star senior to keep a talented, tough youngster like Smith on the second unit too. Though based on camp observations the staff is looking for ways to get the true soph into even more action now because he's up to the demands. At least we know who will start at one safety spot in 2009, if not necessarily FS because Smith just has the look of a strong-guy in time. Not that labels mean much in MSU's system of course. Also, while Smith was too ready not to play as a true freshman, none of the incoming defensive backs should have to be pressed into duty early.

PUNTER

43 BLAKE MCADAMS SR-3L; 41 Eric Richards FR-RS.

No surprise here. McAdams will start for a fourth year after a consistent camp. For his part Richards showed no after-effects of the broken kicking foot and loosed a couple of nice high punts. But those kicks alternated with efforts that would go maybe half the distance. Rust, surely, because there looks to be good leg strength to develop. He's got all summer to work on timing and technique, but still it will be a big surprise if McAdams is supplanted.

PLACEKICKER

37 ADAM CARLSON SR-3L; 41 Eric Richards FR-RS.

There isn't a lot to report because spring placekicking was limited to a couple of early-practice drills and a few scrimmage field goals. When it was worked on, Carlson was the clear #1 as a senior—with an Egg Bowl-winner to his credit—should. Richards struggled; again a sign of rust, and not a real concern with sure starters at both spots this year. The redshirt does have a good shot at kickoff when that gets practiced in August; it wasn't this spring, standard procedure since due to limited days and hours something has to be set aside. There was occasionally a kickoff cover/return group lined up without a ball actually being booted; again that's done in pre-season after the depth charts are settled.


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