2012 Mississippi State Preview – Offense
Mississippi State QB Tyler Russell
Mississippi State QB Tyler Russell
Posted Jun 27, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Mississippi State Bulldog Offense

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Preview 2012 - Offense

- 2012 Mississippi State Preview | 2012 Mississippi State Offense
- 2012 Mississippi State Defense | 2012 Mississippi State Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Offensive coordinator Vic Koenning might need to change things up a little bit to match the personnel. Last year, dual-threat quarterback Chris Relf and workhorse running back Vick Ballard carried the offensive workload, but now the passing game could get a bit more work. Tyler Russell is more of a pro-style passer who gets all of the top targets from last year back. There's athleticism and potential at wide receiver, and now everyone will get used a bit more. The running game won't be forgotten about with a rotation of four good backs working behind a decent line. The interior of the front five will be strong, but both starting tackles have to be replaced.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Tyler Russell
69-129, 1,034 yds, 8 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: LaDarius Perkins
87 carries, 422 yds, 2 TD
Receiving: Chris Smith
35 catches, 330 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Junior QB Tyler Russell
Player who has to step up and be a star: Russell
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman WR Joe Morrow
Best pro prospect: Junior OG Gabe Jackson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jackson, 2) C Dillon Day, 3) TE Malcolm Johnson
Strength of the offense: Wide Receiver Experience, Line Interior
Weakness of the offense: Big Pass Plays, Proven Depth


Is this the year that Tyler Russell finally starts to play up to his hype? The team's best pure passing option over the last few years, he didn't get too much work in last year completing 54% of his passes for 1,034 yards and eight scores with four picks. While he's not a runner, he's hardly a stick in the mid with 45 net rushing yards and a score. However, the 6-4, 220-pound junior is at his best as a pure pocket passer and he appears to have made big enough strides this offseason to start to do more. Expected to be the savior of the Mississippi State program when he signed on three years ago, he's a pro-style passer with a live arm, smart and the talent to grow into the type of bomber who can carry an offense by himself. Now he has to keep the mistakes and the picks to a minimum like he did as a star at Meridian High, leading his team to the Mississippi state high school championship in 2008 throwing 40 scoring passes and just five picks.

Redshirt freshman Dak Prescott is the dual-threat option to Russell's passing ability. The 6-2, 225-pound athlete was wanted by LSU and a slew of other SEC schools, but he was promised a shot to play quarterback at Mississippi State and he'll eventually get his chances. He's a strong passer with good accuracy, but he's also a pounding runner who doesn't go down easily. He could see time here and there as a change of pace.

Watch Out For … Russell to take a big step forward. He has been around long enough to know what he's doing, and this spring he took a better command of the offense and showed he's able to be the leader of the attack. It was Chris Relf's offense last year, and now it's Russell's.
Strength: A potentially nice 1-2 punch. Unlike the last few years when there was a bit of a controversy and a quarterback derby, there's no questioning the pecking order this year. However, Prescott is a good enough runner to throw into the mix from time to time to throw off defenses.
Weakness: Backup experience. Last year Russell was the No. 2 man and Dylan Favre was the promising prospect in the mix. Favre left the program and Relf graduated, leaving is Prescott or bust for the backup spot.
Outlook: The Bulldogs will only go as far as Russell can take them. He has the size and the tools, but he hasn't been able to put it all together yet. Now that there's no pressure on him in terms of looking over his shoulder – for now – he should shine. Prescott is a fabulous No. 2 option to keep developing.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

The running game might lose Vick Ballard, but junior LaDarius Perkins should be ready to pick up the slack. The 5-10, 190-pounder was a nice recruit three years ago who has become the No. 2 back over the last few seasons rushing for 422 yards and two scores last year averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Steady, he was good for a few carries a game, and he finished with 13 catches for 59 yards and two touchdowns, but he has the quickness and ability to blossom with a bigger role. Slippery, he's a one-cut and fly type of runner who can get through the hole in a hurry. He has also been a solid return man when given the chance.

Sophomore Nick Griffin got a few mop-up carries last season finishing with 109 yards and a score on 16 carries – with 81 yards and a touchdown coming in the blowout over UT Martin. At 6-0 and 225 pounds he brings a decent thump with the smarts to have been offered scholarships from Stanford and Vanderbilt. He's a tough player who'll add more power to Perkins' speed.

Ready to blossom in the rotation are a pair of redshirt freshmen. 5-9, 215-pound Josh Robinson might be the team's fastest rushing option. Speedy through the hole and quick on his cutbacks, he can do a little bit of everything, including getting around the edge, while 6-0, 205-pound Derrick Milton is a bit more of a power runner who can get in between the tackles. He can move, too, and like Robinson has no problems bouncing to the outside.

The Bulldogs started a fullback in five games last season with senior Sylvester Hemphill getting the call each time. The 5-11, 235-pounder is a pure blocker and won't ever get the ball – with no carries and just one catch for no yards – but he's a punishing hitter who does all the little things to make the ground game go.

Watch Out For … the redshirt freshmen. Perkins and Griffin will be the main men, but Robinson could be a game-changing speedster who has a few big moments now and then. Milton is a promising runner in the Vick Ballard mold.
Strength: The rotation. There might not be one back like Ballard to carry the ball 193 times, but there's a good-looking foursome to handle a bigger workload from the backs with the ability and talent to add a little something different with each option.
Weakness: Vick Ballard and Chris Relf. Ballard cranked out over six yards per carry with 1,189 yards as the workhorse for the attack, while Relf, the former starting quarterback, was always a dangerous option. Now the four young backs will have to handle the work.
Outlook: After running for 2,279 yards and 19 scores as a team, MSU should be able to match the production with a different look and more of a regular rotation. Instead of one back handling most of the load, four will get the ball to keep everyone fresh. The coaching staff will go with the hot hand, but Perkins will be the main man.
Unit Rating: 7.5


The top receiving options are all back, but they need to be more dangerous. Senior Chris Smith led the team with 35 catches, but they only went for 330 yards and two touchdowns with few big plays. The 6-2, 205-pounder is strong with decent enough speed to be a matchup problem. However, he has mostly been a short-to-midrange target and now he has to be more than just steady.

Senior Chad Bumphis might not have the look of a No. 1 target, but the 5-11, 200-pound veteran is strong, tough and can fly. He led the team with 44 catches two years ago but dropped off a bit last season with just 25 grabs for 339 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't make more than four grabs in any game and he fell off a cliff late in the season with just three catches for two yards in the final three games, but the talent and experience are there to do far more. First, he has to stay healthy after having collarbone and ankle problems in the past.

5-10, 180-pound senior Arceto Clark led the team in yards with 442 coming on 30 catches with four scores. The 5-10, 180-pound veteran made two of his scoring grabs against UT Martin with one touchdown in the opener against Memphis and the bowl win over Wake Forest. While he's not huge, he has decent 4.5 speed and is steady.

6-4, 205-pound redshirt freshman Joe Morrow was, literally, a huge recruit for the program. A superstar prospect who was wanted by all the SEC big boys, he has the size and the physical ability to use it. With good enough speed to stretch the field and a tough style of play, he has the potential to become a No. 1 target sooner than later.

Ricco Sanders will be the top backup behind Smith, but he's experienced enough to see starting time if needed. The 5-11, 190-pound junior made 15 catches for 163 yards and a score. Now "The Real Deal" has to start using his speed to hit more home runs. Also adding experienced depth will once again by Brandon Heavens, a 5-10, 175-pound senior with excellent speed and athleticism. The former great recruit for the program made just ten catches for 114 yards and a score last season, but he made 22 grabs for 316 yards in 2010.

Sophomore Malcolm Johnson turned into a surprising deep threat at tight end last season, making 11 catches for 206 yards and three scores averaging a team-leading – among those with double-digit grabs – 18.7 yards per grab. At 6-2 and 230 pounds he's built a bit like a fullback, but he's a big wide receiver playing tight end. He'll be backed up by Brandon Hill a 6-2, 240-pound physical target who made a catch for three yards in his limited action.

Watch Out For …
Morrow. He might be the least experienced of the top options, but he also might be the most talented. He'll be the team's biggest target and could be a matchup problem on the outside.
Strength: Experience. Nine of the team's top ten pass catchers return, with former RB Vick Ballard the lone missing option. This was a veteran group last year, and now it's really full of experienced talent.
Weakness: Big plays. It's hard to hit too many home runs in SEC play, but there weren't enough deep catches to loosen things up. The passing game averaged just 11.9 yards per play despite the speed all across the board.
Outlook: This is a good group of talents, not a great one, but there's a ton of experience and the numbers should go up with Tyler Russell now playing a full-time role under center. If Morrow can be as good as expected, and if Johnson can build off the promise of his good first year at tight end, the passing game could go from pedestrian to terrific.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Offensive Line

The O line did a strong job for the running game and wasn't awful in pass protection. However, both starting tackles are gone with James Carmon the biggest loss at left tackle. Sophomore Blaine Clausell will take over after spending last year as the understudy. At 6-7 and 305 pound he has beefed up a bit and now should be ready to handle the workload for the next three seasons. A good athlete, he's expected to be a solid pass protector from the start.

On the other side, Addison Lawrence is gone after starting all 13 games at right tackle. Stepping in is 6-7, 315-pound sophomore Damien Robinson, who might be a more effective guard but is built for tackle. A tremendous recruit a few years ago, he can move a bit and has the talent to grow into a mainstay on the outside.

Trying to come back from a torn up knee is right guard Tobias Smith, a 6-3, 305-pound senior who went from being a key backup to a starter for three games before getting knocked out. Now he has to prove he can stay healthy after missing time earlier in his career with an ankle problem. The experience and all the measureables are there to be a key part of the running game.

6-4, 320-pound junior Gabe Jackson stepped up and started every game as a freshman, and then he did it again as a sophomore starting all 13 games last season. Big, strong and pounding, he'll be the one the ground game works behind at left guard. A great recruit for the program three years ago, he's an anchor and possible all-star.

Sophomore Dillon Day took over the starting center job halfway through last season and will make it his for another three seasons. The 6-4, 285-pounder was a high school offensive tackle and moves well. While he's not a monster or a mauler in the interior, he has beefed up 35 pounds since coming to Starkville.

Considering Smith's knee injury from last year and his history of being hurt, the battle for the backup right guard spot will be key. 6-3, 300-pound sophomore Ben Beckwith saw time in 11 games last season, while 6-7, 315-pound redshirt freshman Justin Malone has right tackle size but will see time early on in the interior.

6-4, 290-pound sophomore Archie Muniz saw time in 12 games as a freshman, and now he'll see time here and there at left tackle. A smart, athletic blocker, he can mix it up a bit but will be at his best in pass protection. Former JUCO transfer Joey Trapp saw time in 11 games and will also get a little work at left tackle. From Los Angeles, he has taken a long road to get to MSU, and now he'll be a veteran backup who can play either tackle spot.

Watch Out For … the tackles. It's never a plus to lose tackles who started every game, especially in the SEC, but the potential is there for the Bulldogs to be improved with Clausell and Robinson two promising sophomores who'll be rocks for the offense over the next three seasons.
Strength: The guards. As long as Smith can come back healthy and back to where he was at the beginning of last year, MSU will be strong on the inside. Jackson is a good one to work the ground game around.
Weakness: Consistent pass protection. The quarterbacks didn't get destroyed – the line gave up a not-that-bad 25 sacks – but the veteran tackles weren't rocks. Now the Bulldogs have to go with two young players on the outside protecting a less mobile quarterback. Tyler Russell can move, but he's not as quick as Chris Relf.
Outlook: The line should be okay as long as there aren't a slew of big injury issues. The interior will be good and the tackles will be fine, but this isn't going to be a major strength. It'll be a serviceable line that does a solid job for the ground game, but it's not going to blast away against the better SEC D lines.
Unit Rating: 6.5

- 2012 Mississippi State Preview | 2012 Mississippi State Offense
- 2012 Mississippi State Defense | 2012 Mississippi State Depth Chart