Bumphis Welcomes 'Old' Dog Duties In 2010

A fascinating fact of college football is how quickly that New Kid becomes the Old Hand. Not that anyone considers Chad Bumphis old of course, though he will turn 21 in October. Still this true sophomore understands that, by virtue of both his freshman achievements and the greenish tinge still showing in the whole wide receiver squad, he has become an Old Dog.

"It's just being more mature this year, basically," Bumphis said. "Coach (Matt) Balis talked to me about it a lot this summer, he would always tell me about guys looking up to older receivers." Even if being ‘older' consists of a single season in the Mississippi State system.

Of course in Bumphis' case, that one year was pretty impressive. As a 2009 rookie Bumphis burst onto the Bulldog scene in a big way, becoming the top play-maker in State's passing game. He paced the team not just in receptions at 32, but in yardage (375) and touchdowns (4) as well. Such feats earned Bumphis membership on the SEC's All-Freshman team as voted by league coaches.

All of which raises the obvious question: what next for Bumphis? Leading the squad in statistics is great; becoming a leader in all sorts of other ways is another matter. It's a role that Bumphis is embracing, though, because he sees both the need and the opportunity in a unit short on seniority.

"Last year we had Brandon McRae who was a great receiver," Bumphis said. "But this year, Leon Berry is a senior but we've played the same amount of seasons. So we both have to step-up and take the role as ‘younger' players I guess."

He guesses rightly. Coach Dan Mullen is expecting greater things from Bumphis this second time-around.

"Chad had a chore in the off-season," the head coach said. "He had to mature his body, lose a little weight. But really, maturing as a wide receiver is what is important for Chad."

See, to Mullen maturity at this and other offensive skill spots is not merely a matter of aging. State's coaching staff welcomed what Bumphis, and some other special rookies, provided the gameplan last fall. But Mullen points out the pups were doing it on existing talents. "A lot of time as freshmen they're out there on ability," Mullen said. Bumphis could have stood as Exhibit A, and that was fine for the time.

"We got to see that with him leading us in receptions," Mullen said. "But for us to improve as an offense and as a team he needs to become a great fundamental receiver. How to recognize what the defense is doing and how to stop it. That comes with maturity. Hopefully this year." Bumphis sees things the same way. "It's just understanding the concept of the offense, and understanding the offense as a whole so I can become a more complete receiver." That's a notion bound to excite Bulldog players and fans alike, because a stronger, smarter, and still-hungry Bumphis can become one of the best play-makers not only in the conference that recognized his freshman feats. He has national-scene potential as both Bumphis and the whole Bulldog offense mature accordingly.

While Bumphis can be lined-up in just about any receiver spot, from split end to slot, he is a natural for Mullen's concept of the ‘H' receiver. Not a H-back per se, but then spring and preseason practices have also shown State's plans of getting Bumphis the ball via pitches and handoffs along with the more typical passing pattern.

"H fits my skills," said Bumphis. "I played it all last year and all in high school so I'm pretty used to it and I've got a good feel for it."

He also has a fine feel for the return game. Berry is still first in this particular picture based on his own achievements of 2009, when the then-transfer busted kickoff return records with 1,015 yards and a touchdown that counted. Another was called back. But Bumphis gets his chances too, on both kickoffs where he is one of two deep Dogs and punts if a change seems smart.

"I think it will be about the same as last year. We have both our returners back, I'm pretty sure Leon will be the returner but just like last year I'll be back there with him if he needs me."

By the way, Bumphis might find himself occupied with an additional special teams assignments. During the first week of August camp the wideout/return man got an unexpected summons.

"Coach Mullen just grabbed me one day and said ‘Bumphis, come learn how to hold!' And since then I've been holding." As in taking the placekick snap and setting it for the ensuing boot. Bumphis said he did this trick "a little bit" in high school so it wasn't entirely new. Nor is it a problem. "Yeah, it's pretty fun." He is still second behind veteran Chris Cameron in this role.

Now, there might be the obvious concern raised: those are some pretty valuable hands in the MSU gameplan that are getting placed in the potential way of somebody's swinging shoe at practice. And with Sean Brauchle and Derek DePasquale waging a fine camp fight for who is #1 kicker, well, those boots have a lot of motivation and momentum alike behind them.

"I haven't been hit yet," Bumphis grinned. "And I make sure of it, too!"

Something else would seem rather obvious about this added duty. A big play-maker receiving the direct hike? Sounds like the makings of a gimmick game, eh? Especially considering that Bumphis, who played a good bit at quarterback as a high school senior, is already known by SEC defenses as a potential passer. He threw two as a rookie, one completed.

"Nah, we haven't done any trick plays," Bumphis said. "Not yet!"

He meant there've been no tricks shown in the kicking game; as for getting to toss it long in regular offense, this player isn't just sitting back and hoping. "Yeah, I think it's coming! I ask about it all the time so it should be somewhere near. I ask Coach Mullen all the time. I actually asked Coach (Les) Koenning the other day so we'll see!"

A flanker-reverse pass? Well, State saw that on the first play of 2009 when the then-frosh Bumphis unloaded long…and incomplete. A season later, now, with a whole year's maturing of mind and body and approach to the game? There ought to be a lot more seen of and from this rising sophomore standout whether receiving, returning, whatever.

"With Coach Mullen you never know!"

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