Mississippi State position grades for 2015
It what many believed would be a rebuilding year for Mississippi State, the Bulldogs won nine games for the third time in seven years under coach Dan Mullen.
Mississippi State’s offense again led the Bulldogs to a stellar season. The Bulldogs finished 31st in total offense (460 yards per game) and 14th in passing yards (316.4 per game). Only Ole Miss had a better passing offense in the SEC.
Although the defense didn’t always shut down opponents, Mississippi State completed the season ranked 36th in the country with 22.8 points allowed per game.
Let’s go down the roster, position by position, and give out grades:
Senior Dak Prescott leaves as the greatest player in Mississippi State history, leading the Bulldogs to 19 victories in the last two seasons.
With 9,376 passing yards, 70 passing touchdowns, 2,521 rushing yards and 41 rushing TDs, Prescott owns nearly every school record. In 2015, he set career-highs with 3,793 passing yards, 29 passing TDs and a 66.2 completion percentage. He had only five interceptions.
Prescott led the team with 588 rushing yards. Junior Brandon Holloway led the team with 413 rushing yards on 4.5 yards per carry. Running backs accounted for only four of the team’s 20 rushing TDs.
Holloway also contributed in the passing game, catching 33 passes for 396 yards and five TDs.
Junior wideouts Fred Ross and De’Runnya Wilson might be the most dynamic receiving duo in Mississippi State history. Ross set a school record with 88 receptions and became the first wideout at Mississippi State with more than 1,000 receiving yards since 1978. Meanwhile, Wilson amassed 905 receiving yards on 59 catches with 10 TDs.
Fred Brown, Donald Gray, Malik Dear and TE Gus Walley contributed.
The Bulldogs never mounted much of a running attack. Mullen didn’t attempt to run much behind his offensive line, which also allowed an average of 2.46 sacks per game to rank 90th in the country.
The line was solid. A.J. Jefferson led the unit with 39 tackles and 5.0 sacks. He also led the team with 11.5 tackles for loss. Fellow junior Chris Jones was the other standout on the line with 36 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Mississippi State finished 10th in the SEC, allowing 4.3 yards per rushing attempt.
Juniors Richie Brown and Beniquez Brown finished first and second with 98 and 93 tackles, respectively. Brown also led the team with 6.5 sacks. The Bulldogs’ defense completed the year 46th in the country with 30 sacks.
Considering the secondary concluded the year without its top two players, the Bulldogs’ pass defense played very well. Freshman Brandon Bryant led with three interceptions and returned one for a TD. His pick of N.C. State QB Jacoby Brissett in the first half of the Belk Bowl helped set the tone for the rout. Mississippi State finished 56th nationally in passing yards allowed per game (216.8).
Sophomore Westin Graves was a pleasant surprise, making 52-of-54 extra points and going 15-for-18 on field goals. Graves, however, made just 3-of-5 attempts beyond 39 yards.
Mississippi State was above average in punt return and kickoff return yardage. The team was also first in the SEC in kickoff return defense. Mississippi State ranked 113th nationally in covering punts, but the Bulldogs only yielded 10 returns on 54 punts, making that ranking less significant.