Three USM players every Mississippi State fan should know before Saturday
The Mississippi State Bulldogs will take on in-state rival Southern Miss for the first time since 1990 when the two teams meet to open the 2014 season Saturday night.
In anticipation of the renewal of this Magnolia State rivalry, here are three Southern Miss players all MSU fans should familiarize themselves with by Saturday:
1. Nick Mullens (QB): Mullens split time at quarterback with Allan Bridgford as a freshman in 2013, but has the job to himself entering the 2014 season. He completed only 49 percent of his passes last season, throwing for 13 touchdowns compared to 14 interceptions.
But Mullens has a few things working in his favor heading into 2014: he’s getting all of the practice reps with the first team, he has the confidence of the undisputed starting quarterback and his top two receivers in 2013 – Markese Triplett and Tyre’oune Holmes – are back for another year at USM. Mullen will face the difficult task of beginning his sophomore season against one of the most experienced defenses in the country, and his ability to rise to the occasion should be a good indicator of his growth from last season.
2. Desman McCullum (DE): McCullum, a native of Hebron, Mississippi, emerged as an athletic pass rushing threat over the course of the 2013 season. He led Southern Miss with 10.5 tackles for loss, and added 2.5 sacks and 37 total tackles. McCullum showed a nose for the football last season by recovering four fumbles and batting down four passes at the line of scrimmage. He can be very dangerous as a pass rusher on obvious passing downs, especially against a Mississippi State offense yet to figure out its starting right tackle.
3. Emmanuel Johnson (S): Johnson was an All-Conference USA honorable mention following the 2013 season, and enters his senior season as the anchor of the back-end of the Southern Miss defense. He was fourth on the team last season with 54 total tackles in addition to forcing two turnovers (one interception and one forced fumble). The Golden Eagles had just five interceptions as a team in 2013, but Johnson should have more freedom in the secondary as a senior playing alongside a handful of freshman cornerbacks. He will also have the chance to make an impact through the return game, which can be an underdog’s best friend by changing field position and the momentum of a game.