Mississippi State’s hopes of improving its passing game in 2017 have taken a shot as junior receiver Malik Dear may miss the entire 2017 season after tearing his ACL in spring camp.

While it’s too early to declare Dear’s season done at this point, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen certainly entertained that thought during his Tuesday media availability. Mullen revealed the extent of the receiver’s injury when asked about Dear’s absence for much of the spring.

“He tore his ACL early in spring,” Mullen said. “He’s had the surgery, it’ll be awhile before we know where he’s at, whether or not he’ll be available next season or not. I think it’s going to be probably well into August before we have an idea whether he’d be ready to play next year.”

After racking up 46 catches for 490 yards and four touchdowns over the last two seasons, Dear was projected to be one of Nick Fitzgerald’s go-to receivers in Starkville in 2017. With Dear potentially out of the lineup and the school’s all-time leading receiver Fred Ross heading into the NFL draft, Mississippi State will likely be looking to Donald Gray to step up and become the team’s No. 1 receiver next season.

“Malik is the only major injury coming out of spring,” Mullen said in response to a question regarding spring injuries. “The young guys better improve quickly.”

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