MSU Coach Mark Hudspeth Talks About His WRs

Mississippi State wide receivers coach Mark Hudspeth talks about his players, including what he likes about the freshmen, how healthy Brandon McRae and O'Neal Wilder are, and who is in the current two-deep.

How have the wide receivers looked during the past few practices?
"I've been very pleased with the play of the receivers the last few days. They have stepped it up, especially some of the freshmen. The light has really come on for some of those guys. I feel like they are to the point where they know the scheme well enough where they can help us. And whether they could pick that up in four weeks is always a concern with freshmen. There's no question that they are very talented. The question was whether they could learn everything in such a short period of time.

"Are we where we need to be yet? No, because we are so inexperienced. We only have one guy (Brandon McRae) who has played a snap of college football. And he's not a 100%. These guys are going to have to get their feet wet a little bit. But the thing I want them to do is to know what to do and to play hard. If they'll do that, then they are going to make plays."

I already knew that Chad Bumphis and Brandon Heavens had been impressive. And I've heard that Chris Smith has really come on of late?
"They have. And Dennis Thames and Taylor Reed have been getting some reps. It's not 100% on which freshmen will play. Bumphis will play. Heavens will probably play. But we haven't made decisions on all the other freshmen, although I expect up to three or four freshmen will probably play."

Do you expect Chris Smith to play?
"He has stepped it up. He's a big target who has good hands."

When you say he's stepped up, what has Chris done to cause you to say that?
"With the amount of offense that we have in, he just struggled with digesting everything early. Finally, the light came on and he started to pick things up without us constantly being behind him."

When did that happen?
"I would probably say about a week and a half ago. He started making a lot of plays. Every chance he got he made a play. And he kept catching our eye. And the more plays he made the more reps we gave him. And he took advantage of it."

We talked about the freshmen and the fact that you might use three or four of them. How many total wide receivers do you see being used in a game?
"We are probably going to travel and use six to eight wide outs depending on the game."

I've heard about Brandon McRae, Leon Berry and O'Neal Wilder. What are the plans for redshirt freshman Charles Bailey?
"Right now Charles Bailey is not in the two-deep, although it's a long season and anything could happen. But he's working awfully hard and he's still a freshman. O'Neal Wilder is still a freshman and he's definitely in the two-deep."

When you think about it, it's possible that four to five of your top six to top eight wide receivers could be either true freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Is that a good or bad thing?
"It's definitely exciting for the future. This group of freshmen wideouts is probably one of the most talented that I have been around. They are going to make mistakes. But the thing that we want them to do is play hard and know what to do and learn from those mistakes. And it's very critical at the receiver position that we become more efficient. You can't have a lot of mental busts during the course of a game."

Is Wilder completely healthy?
"He's getting there every day. His leg is getting stronger every day. He's a big target who is a deep threat. And his attitude has been really good. He's just got to continue to develop and get stronger. He missed a lot of time in the offseason with his knee."

When I saw Chris Smith on game film in high school I saw a big guy with strong hands who wasn't afraid to catch balls with guys all over him. What have you seen from him during the preseason practices?
"The same thing. He has big, strong hands and is a big target. He's a physical kid who is a competitor. He not afraid to get in there and mix it up. And he's confident. A lot of our freshmen are like that. They come from good programs, winning programs."

What do you like about Dennis Thames?
"He had a really good camp, then he went down with a lower back injury for about 4 or 5 days and that set him back just a little bit. And he's not 100% yet, but he's getting there. He's a guy we don't know if he will play this year. We have a lot of freshmen who could play but we don't want to play all of them this year because we would like to redshirt some of them."

You mentioned Taylor Reed. What have you seem from him that you like?
"He's a guy who runs exceptionally good routes and he has deceptive speed and really good hands. He just needs to become a little more physical. He's sort of jumped in the picture of late. We don't know if he will play a whole lot this year. It probably depends on how healthy we stay."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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