Scouting the SEC: Mississippi State

Mid-season doldrums and a long losing streak destroyed MSU's campaign last year. This is a program known for solid prospects in every area but the offensive skill positions and that won't change. What we do expect to change is the record as the Bulldogs offense should put up a lot of points this season and could be the dark horse in the SEC West.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

The offensive side of the ball has been known for tough linemen and lead fullbacks, with a few tight ends sprinkled in.  This April MSU may have the most complete tight end in the draft in Donald Lee. Primarily used as a blocker early in his career, Lee slowly became a part of the passing offense as a junior and is poised to take the next step in '02. His blocking is outstanding in every aspect; strength, technique and results. Lee drives opponents off the line off scrimmage run blocking, anchors in pass protection and his footwork is as good as most tackles when he blocks the edge. He is agile, athletic yet strong at the same time. The few times the ball is thrown in his direction Lee displays soft hands, good concentration and the ability to make either the difficult or easy reception with regularity. His receiving numbers are paltry but to no fault of his own as Lee is constantly an open target on the field that the signal caller misses or just bypasses. He may not be flashy or the kind of tight end that makes highlight reel-type catches down the field rather a total player very worthy of a first day selection. MSU has offered good offensive lineman in the past and Derrick Thompson is most assuredly the next to be available. A big and powerful athlete that dominates defenders, Thompson is overpowering as both a pass or run blocker and is a lot more than some big "fat guy" on the edge as he is a prospect that can play in space, using solid technique to get the job done. What he must do is pick up the nuances of the position; he makes terrible use of body positioning and even worse application of blocking angles. As a junior Thompson ranks in the top five of his position now and has a great upside for the future. They have a double-headed monster at fullback. Senior Justin Griffith is an athletic and intelligent lead blocker that does an good job paving the way for his runners while also adequately catching the ball out of the backfield. Griffith, hurt during the 2001 campaign, needs a big senior season to move into the middle frames but has the underlying athletic talents to be successful. Sophomore Darrell Jones is a terror as a lead fullback and destroys opponents, easily getting out in front of the ball carrier or around tackle, clearing big holes for the running back. We love his potential for the future and would rank him very highly on fullback charts as of today. Donte' Walker is a big bruiser on the inside and a running back that moves the pile or breaks several tackles during a single run. He is not quick or explosive and his lack of speed may knock him out of draft consideration. Receiver Justin Jenkins is a nice sized wide out and a junior that displays game breaking skills, making big receptions down the field and is a prospect with a large upside. Terrell Grindle is a compact wide out that does not seem to be a natural pass catcher and is constantly fighting the ball but will still get into a camp.

The defense has a pair of very good prospects. Mario Haggan has been a force on the Bulldog defense since he was a sophomore. A big, strong linebacker, he easily makes his way to the ball carrier whether it be up the field or out to the sidelines, bringing opponents down on initial contact. Rarely off his feet, Haggan holds his ground and defeats blocks, all along looking to get involved in the action. His movement skills and range are not bad yet his pass cover skills are barely adequate and could be the difference between Haggan being a top sixty pick or getting branded as a "two-down defender" and slipping through the cracks. Korey Banks is a solid cover corner with speed, explosion and instinct. He flashes on the scene and rarely has opposing passers challenging him. Banks has adequate size and the attitude to play man-to-man, also displaying skills backed off the line of scrimmage. He must concentrate and play every down with good technique (he likes to sidestep at times rather than backpedal) but a big senior season could thrust him into the top sixty. Safety Josh Morgan is a rough-n-tumble centerfielder that throws his body around the action and a smart defender that keeps the action in front of him but one that lacks the great playing speed and will be pushed into the later rounds.

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