Pre-Spring Offseason Forecast: Mississippi State

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With the offseason officially underway, SDS will examine what’s next for spring football for all 14 teams. Next up, Mississippi State.

What’s changing

Change was imminent for Mississippi State, especially the way the team finished – or didn’t – just 1-4 down the stretch. And the biggest change Dan Mullen made was promoting Geoff Collins from co-defensive coordinator to coordinator. He flirted with it for the bowl game, but he made it permanent after the loss to Northwestern. Former coordinator Chris Wilson left for Georgia to coach the defensive line, and Collins is a much more aggressive play caller. Mullen also hired Deshea Townsend to help coach the secondary and David Turner to coach the defensive line, and he hired Billy Gonzalez as his new wide receivers coach and moved Tim Brewster from wide receivers to tight ends on offense. So, it’s a nice little shakeup for the State staff, as something – anything – had to be done. However, Mullen and offensive coordinator Les Koenning need to revamp a stagnant and lethargic offense, and Gonzalez and Brewster should help with that process this spring. MSU must rely more on its stable bevy of running backs, headlined by LaDarius Perkins.

Position of concern

The hiring of Deshea Townsend to help with the secondary certainly comes at a great time, considering the Bulldogs lose three starters in one of the more underrated secondaries in the country. Corners Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, along with safety Corey Broomfield, are gone, leaving only safety Nickoe Whitley as the lone returning starter. Backup corners Jamerson Love and Taveze Calhoun played in nearly every game in 2012, as did backup safety Jay Hughes, who recorded 32 tackles. However, the lost trio made 143 tackles and more importantly combined for 10 INTs.

Emerging spring player prediction

Last year, linebacker Bendardrick McKinney was the spring’s breakout player, but this year it will be defensive tackle Quay Evans. Evans played in 10 games as a true freshman, but he only made seven total tackles and one forced fumble. Still, freshmen tackles usually don’t make a splash their first season, but with a complete year under his belt as well as spring practice, Evans is my pick to a breakout player this spring. The loss of Josh Boyd at tackle opens the door for the rising sophomore Quay Evans, a mountain of man.

Three signees to be excited about

1. Chris Jones, DE: Jones was the Pied Piper of the ‘13 recruiting class and arguably the second best player in the country. Jones should bring an immediate impact and depth to a position that must get better for MSU. Jones is a hawse, and he’s one of the top impact newcomers.

2. Fred Ross, WR: Oklahoma State’s highest ranked recruit bolted to MSU for a chance to play in the SEC. The 6-2, 190-pound Ross will have an impact in just his first year because of the lack of depth. State loses its top three receivers, and somebody has to catch Tyler Russell’s passes. Ross is one to watch.

3. Ashton Shumpert, ATH: Several recruiting agencies have the Magnolia state’s Gatorade Player of the Year listed as a safety, but Shumpert will likely ball at running back. The good news for MSU is there is versatility in Shumpert, and he has a big future at whichever position he winds up playing.

Needs Developing

There were two positions of utmost importance exiting 2012: defensive secondary and wide receiver. The receivers aren’t as concerning because of the veteran Tyler Russell, a stable set of backs and an experienced offensive line. However, there’s no denying the three big vacancies entering the spring with Chad Bumphis, Chris Smith and Arceto Clark all gone. The trio combined for 141 of Russell’s 231 completions and 15 touchdowns. Now, backups from ‘12 in Robert Johnson, Joe Morrow and Jameon Lewis must continue to develop to give this club three formidable weapons for Russell and the passing game.

Previous Offseason Forecasts:

Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

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