There are 2 ways of looking at Mississippi State’s depth at wide receiver.

The Bulldogs utilize a whole bunch of wide receivers. The passes from Will Rogers are pretty evenly distributed. The passing game is the 2nd-most productive in the SEC behind only Tennessee.

That’s a lot of good stuff coming from Rogers and the receivers — as well as running backs Jo’quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson, who are heavily involved in the passing game.

Six wide receivers have caught between 24 and 44 passes. Those 6 have between 234 and 563 receiving yards. They all have at least 1 touchdown reception and 5 of them range between 3 scores and 8 scores.

“We’ve got a whole bunch of them that are cluttered together there,” head coach Mike Leach said of the receivers’ statistics.

One way of looking at that clutter is that Rogers has a bunch of roughly equally viable options, that it creates headaches for opposing defenses because they can’t zero in on 1 or 2 guys that Rogers leans on.

All the receivers running a pattern on any given play require roughly the same amount of attention.

But Leach has another way of looking at this.

“Right now, we’ve got a group of nice guys that like each other, that like the ball, that like the team, that like the social activities that go along with it,” Leach said. “We’ve got guys that compete. We’ve got guys that can do some things.”

That’s all good and it’s a big reason why the Bulldogs are so productive in the passing game. But there is a caveat.

Leach didn’t use this term, but basically he said multiple times this week and many times going all the way back to spring practice that he’s looking for an alpha male among the receivers.

“They all do some good things,” Leach said, “but we need that competitive guy that’s determined to be the best one, that wants you to know, ‘hey, I’m the best in this room and there’s nothing any of you can do about it.’ We’re still searching for that guy.”

Leach knows what that guy looks like. He’s seen him before — most frequently when he was the head coach at Texas Tech.

He cited 3 former Red Raiders this week — Michael Crabtree, Wes Welker and Danny Amendola. All were outstanding college players. All had significant NFL careers. All were alpha receivers.

Crabtree was blessed with far more natural ability than the other 2, but, Leach said, Crabtree enhanced that with an alpha work ethic and attention to detail.

Leach said all 3 had “incredible confidence,” though — in reference to Welker and Amendola — “not always rational confidence.”

In other words, no one looking at the physiques of Welker and Amendola, or timing their straightaway speed, would understand their self-confidence. But they were supremely confident and their ability to get open, catch the ball, avoid tackles, gain significant yardage and reach the end zone with rare frequency justified their confidence.

Leach continues his search for a Bulldog or 2 to emerge with that kind of confidence — whether it be rational or not.

“We want somebody that just really wants the ball for the sake of having the ball because they believe they’re better with it than the other guy in the seat next to him,” Leach said.

Rufus Harvey has emerged as the closest to a go-to guy for Rogers, leading the team with 44 catches.

“I think he’s steadily emerged as a player, and he’s going to continue to get better,” Leach said of Harvey. “But he certainly could have more (catches) than that, too. That’s the biggest thing.”

Then Leach spoke about the group at large.

“If these guys would separate themselves, we’d throw it more at the guy that specifically separates himself,” Leach said. “All of a sudden, you’re clearly better than the guy next to you. We’re going to throw you the ball more, and the guy next to you can sit and watch you catch the ball more. Either that or (the other guy can) find ways to give us some really good reasons to throw it to them more.”

Rara Thomas leads State in receiving yards (563) and yards per catch (14.8). Caleb Ducking leads the team in touchdown receptions (8).

Ducking is 1 of 4 SEC players to have multiple games with multiple touchdown receptions this season.

Perhaps Harvey, Thomas or Ducking — or Lideatrick Griffin, Austin Williams or Jaden Walley — will give Leach what he’s looking for this Saturday when the Bulldogs (6-4, 3-4 SEC) play their home finale against East Tennessee State, an FCS team with a 3-7 record.

Certainly, the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night in Oxford would be a great time for it to happen, as would State’s bowl game.

But after all this time, it looks like that receiver isn’t emerging in 2022.