Saturday's Scrimmage Part 2 - The Offense

Although the Mississippi State offense struggled against the Manny Diaz attacking defense for a large part of the Saturday scrimmage, there were some positives to be noted.

Offense

Quarterback

Chris Relf had a solid scrimmage, completing 12-23 passes for 210 yards and one touchdown. The touchdown was a 72-yard bomb to Leon Berry that split two defenders. Relf also had 49 yards rushing. Relf also impressed me with his command at the line of scrimmage, at one point yelling out to Chris Smith his route on the play.

Tyler Russell didn't fare as well, completing 12-26 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. As you would expect from a true freshman, Russell at times looked lost today trying to read Coach Diaz's confusing defensive scheme.

Overall, Mullen should be pleased with how both quarterbacks, as a whole, handled a tough defensive scheme.

Where Position Stands: The quarterback position is at a good place thanks to the development of both Relf and Russell. Relf, who appears to have reworked his throwing motion, has improved drastically since the end of the season. He once threw stiff and rigid, almost shot-putting the ball, but now he throws fluid and with better accuracy.

Running Back

The running back position has come along nicely over the course of the spring with three capable backs, Vick Ballard, LaDarius Perkins, and Robert Elliot.

Ballard, in my opinion, has been the best back this spring, although he didn't have a good Saturday, only rushing for 20 yards. Despite the lack of a good day stats-wise, I was impressed with one play that he made when he had three defenders hanging on him and still kept his feet moving.

Elliot had a good day, leading all rushers with 52 yards including a nice 20-yard run up the middle.

Perkins didn't have a good day with only 22 yards, but I was impressed by his ability to maneuver through the line of scrimmage. He also isn't afraid to lower a shoulder, a trait not often seen from a smaller type back.

Adrian Marcus, a walk-on running back, deserves some kudos for a good showing with 46 yards on 10 carries. He definitely looked good running the ball between the tackles.

Where Position Stands: The running back position is solid with Vick Ballard becoming the number one back and likely replacement of Anthony Dixon. He reminds me a lot of former Bulldog running back Dicenzo Miller due to his build and his subtleness.

LaDarius Perkins has been the second best running back this spring, developing into a good overall back. Perkins is the perfect style running back for the spread offense and could be an impact player next season. The thing I like about him is that he has an extra gear, which will enable him to break some long runs if he gets even a small crease. He is the type back Mississippi State hasn't had in quite a while.

Robert Elliot has come back from his knee injury nicely but is still working to develop the "it factor" he had in high school. He also continues to struggles in pass blocking.

Montrell Conner has been injured most of the spring and will try to get back into the mix during next weeks practices.

Wide Receiver Development

Wide receiver coach Mark Hudspeth's group came into the 2nd spring scrimmage having developed into a solid unit. That unit didn't have a big day due to the struggles of the quarterbacks against the Diaz defense.

There were some bright spots on the day, though.

Brandon Heavens had a good day with two catches for 20 yards and a nice touchdown run off a reverse during a goal line situational play.

Leon Berry only had one catch during the regular scrimmage time but hauled in a nice pass from Relf during situational.

Ricco Sanders had a good day with three catches for 41 yards. Sanders seems to be coming along and I expect him to have a big last week of practice.

Arceto Clark didn't get much work yesterday, running with the third team of receivers.

Where Position Stands: The wide receiver position, still a young unit, is right where the coaches want them to be. There are four guys who could start - Chad Bumphis, Chris Smith, Brandon Heavens and Leon Berry. Ricco Sanders is developing and could very well become a valuable option in the passing game with a good off-season.

The one concern I do have is the loss of O'Neal Wilder. Wilder, thanks to his speed, could stretch the field and free the other receivers to work underneath and attack zones. Bumphis could end up being that type player but I don't believe he is that player at this point.

Tight End

The tight end position is one of the most experienced units on the team and has collectively had a good spring coming into Saturday's scrimmage.

Brandon Henderson had the best day of any of the tight ends six catches for 91 yards.

Marcus Green had three catches on the day for 23 yards, but disappointed me due to two dropped touchdown passes. The tight end is the security blanket for the quarterback and Green must be more sure handed if they are to trust him in tough situations.

Where Position Stands: The tight end position is solid with two-starter caliber players in Green and Kendrick Cook. Henderson is a good receiver but needs to improve his blocking.

Offensive Line

The offensive line has had a tough go of it this spring as the defensive line developed faster than expected. They had a better day Saturday, doing a better job of keeping defenders away from the quarterbacks. That feat is even more significant because in a Diaz defensive scheme it's hard to distinguish who will do what on every play.

Where Position Stands: The offensive line returns basically all five starters considering Tobias Smith was the starter before his injury in pre-season. While the starting unit is solid, depth at tackle is a concern. Juco transfer Jeff Howie could help with that once he enrolls. True freshman Blaine Clausell, who came in during the spring, might factor in as well.

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Jeremiah Short is a columnist who covers various Mississippi State sports for GenesPage.com. He can be reached by email at moot2005@yahoo.com

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