2013 Mississippi State Preview – Offense

Posted Jul 9, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Mississippi State Bulldog Offense

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Preview 2013 - Offense

- 2013 Miss State Preview | 2013 Miss State Offense
- 2013 Miss State Defense | 2013 Miss State Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Offensive coordinator Les Koenning has the skill and talent to work with to take the attack even further after a nice season. Cranking out 382 yards and 29.5 points per game might not seem like much, but in the SEC world the overall numbers were down-the-middle solid. The emergence of quarterback Tyler Russell took the passing game to another level, and he was helped by an improved line that did a nice job last year and welcomes back four starters including All-America-caliber guard Gabe Jackson. LaDarius Perkins leads a nice group of running backs that should shine behind the veteran line, but work needs to be done with a receiving corps that has to replace everyone. Tight end Malcolm Johnson should become a more dangerous factor, but the new starting receivers will be fine, too, with a little bit of time.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Tyler Russell
231-394, 2,897 yds, 24 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: LaDarius Perkins
205 carries, 1,024 yds, 8 TD
Receiving: LaDarius Perkins
19 catches, 160 yds, 2 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Tyler Russell
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior WR Jameon Lewis
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE Malcolm Johnson
Best pro prospect: Senior OG Gabe Jackson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jackson, 2) Russell, 3) RB LaDairus Perkins
Strength of the offense: Line, Russell
Weakness of the offense: Wide Receiver, SEC Defenses


Senior Tyler Russell came to MSU as one of the best pure passing prospects the school has ever brought in, and last year he started to show his upside and potential with 2,897 yards with 24 touchdowns and ten picks completing 59% of his passes. The 6-5, 220-pound veteran was on fire over the first half of the season, but when the schedule got tougher the stats started to falter a bit throwing 15 scoring passes over the first seven games and nine in the last six with four in the win over Arkansas. While he's not a runner, he can move around a little bit and ran for two touchdowns, just mobile enough in the pocket to get by. Expected to be the savior of the program when he signed on four years ago, he's a pro-style passer with a live arm, smarts and the talent to get a long, long look by the next level types. The key will be to keep the mistakes and the picks to a minimum like he did as a star at Meridian High, leading his team to the 2008 Mississippi state championship throwing 40 touchdown passes with just five picks.

Working again as Russell's main backup, and with an eye on the starting spot next year, is sophomore Dak Prescott, a dual-threat option who adds a different style to the pure-passing Russell. The 6-2, 230-pound athlete was wanted by LSU and several other SEC schools, but not necessarily as a quarterback, he was promised to be under center by MSU and he'll eventually get more of an opportunity. He saw a little bit of time last year completing 62% of his chances for 194 yards and four scores with no picks, and he ran for 118 yards and four touchdowns seeing time in almost every game.

Watch Out For … Cord Sandberg. The 6-3, 215-pound recruit is going to push Prescott really, really hard for playing time next season after coming in from Florida as a top dual-threat prospect. A solid and effective passer, he threw 34 touchdown throws as a senior and just one pick, and he also ran for 611 yards and ten scores. Wanted by almost everyone in the SEC, he was a huge get for the program.
Strength: The combination. There's no question that Russell is the starter, but Prescott also showed that he could produce from time to time and be a dangerous option. With Sandberg coming in, MSU has almost as strong a quarterback situation as anyone in the conference.
Weakness: The SEC. MSU was able to light up the weak and the sad, with 12 touchdown passes and no picks against Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas, and struggled way too much with the big boys coming up with just six touchdown passes and five picks against Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss, losing all four games.
Outlook: Russell emerged as a strong, talented SEC passer with the upside and talent to do even more. Prescott is a nice backup option and Sandberg is a big-time prospect for the near future. Now it's up to Russell to take his game and his team to another level.
Unit Rating: 8

Running Backs

The Bulldog running game lost Vick Ballard but found a strong replacement in senior LaDarius Perkins, a 5-10, 195-pounder who carried the load with 1,024 yards and eight scores averaging five yards per catch, and he's the leading returning receiver catching 19 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns. A nice recruit four years ago, he did a nice job waiting for his turn behind Ballard with a steady style and great burst. Slippery, he's a one-cut and fly runner who gets through the hole in a hurry and has good, consistent hands. He's not built to be a workhorse back, but that's what he was at times – MSU went 4-0 when he ran 20 times or more.

Sophomore Josh Robinson turned into the team's No. 2 back finishing with 335 yards and a score averaging 6.1 yards per carry as a steady part of the mix. At 5-9 and 225 pounds he has good size and can provide a little bit of thump, but his real positive is his speed; he might be the fastest of the Bulldogs backs. Speedy through the line and quick on his cutbacks, he can do a little of everything including get around the edge.

6-0, 210-pound sophomore Derrick Milton earned all-star honors in the classroom and has the upside to become a factor in the backfield after running for 165 yards and two scores averaging 4.9 yards per carry. A bit more of a power runner, he can get between the tackles and has a little bit of pop, too, when he gets into the open.

Watch Out For … Ashton Shumpert. MSU only signed one running back, but he's a phenomenal prospect. However, the 6-2, 215-pound 2012 Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year isn't a lock to work as a running back with the skills to potentially work as a receiver or move over to defensive back if needed. However, with his size and quickness, he needs to have the ball in his hands as much as possible.
Strength: The veteran rotation. In Perkins, Robinson and Milton, the Bulldogs have a terrific blend of size, speed, power and experience. They've been through the SEC battles and they all know what they're doing. Perkins might be the star, but there are others to help pick up the slack.
Weakness: The SEC. Everyone had problems running on the top SEC defenses, and MSU was part of the mix with just 98 yards against Texas A&M and being held to under 50 yards against Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss. The Bulldogs ran for a grand total of one score against those four and 17 in the other nine games.
Outlook: The overall numbers might have been down – rushing for 1,874 yards and 18 scores after running for 2,279 yards and 19 touchdowns two years ago – but that's partly because Chris Relf helped the cause as a running quarterback. Perkins is a nice, productive runner and Robinson and Milton are terrific backups to keep everyone fresh.
Unit Rating: 7.5


The Bulldogs have to replace all their top targets, but there's upside and potential needing 5-9, 185-pound junior Jameon Lewis to shine in the slot. A phenomenal kickoff returner averaging 25.9 yards per try, he's extremely quick and shifty with dangerous ability with the ball in his hands. He caught ten passes for 108 yards, and he ran for 21 yards on just five carries, but he looks the part of a quick playmaker who should shine when he catches a pass on the move.

Looking ready to breakthrough and become a huge producer is 6-1, 225-pound junior Robert Johnson, a big, strong target who turned into a bigger part of the passing game over the second half of the season making ten catches for 171 yards and two scores averaging 17.1 yards per catch. A top recruit, he has No. 1 target potential, while 6-3, 210-pound junior Jeremey Chappelle is a very big, very talented new recruit catching 60 passes for 801 yards and ten scores for Tyler JC in Texas. He'll add more size to the spot.

6-4, 210-pound sophomore Joe Morrow is a tall, talented young prospect and, 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 along with the speed to stretch the field. All the tools are there to be special, but he needs the ball his way more after catching five passes for 53 yards in eight games of work. Also working at the spot is 6-1, 185-pound redshirt freshman Fred Brown, a nice recruit last season who spent the year on the sideline. Quick, he has good size and he has good fight to go along with his athleticism.

Junior Malcolm Johnson is a terrific-looking tight end with excellent receiving skills and deep threat ability. While he's built like a fullback at 6-2 and 235 pounds, he's a field stretcher averaging 17.1 yards per catch with ten grabs for 171 yards and two touchdowns a year after coming up with 18.7 yards per catch. Despite being out hurt for the first five games of the season, he still came up with a nice year and should be featured even more. He'll be backed up by 6-2, 240-pound junior Brandon Hill, a career special teamer who's been a star in the classroom while also doing a little bit for the offense making five catches for 46 yards.

Watch Out For … Fred Ross, the best of a fantastic class of receivers. 6-6 De'Runnya Wilson, speedy Donald Gray, 6-4 B.J. Hammond and 6-3 Shelby Christy are all a part of the big, talented group, but it's Ross who's quickly expected to become the star of the show with 6-2, 185-pound size and outstanding deep speed. The Texas native caught 86 passes for 1,594 yards and 21 touchdowns last year and should be a No. 1 target soon.
Strength: Tight end. Somewhat quietly, Johnson has grown into a fantastic tight end, while Hill has the skills to be a bigger part of the passing game. New recruit Artimus Samuel is 6-2, 227 pounds and talented in the red zone with an uncanny knack for getting open.
Weakness: Chad Bumphis, Chris Smith, Arceto Clark and Marcus Green. Combined the top four receivers from last season made 160 of the team's 249 catches and scored 21 of the 28 touchdowns. There are talented replacements waiting to shine, but there's lots of lost production.
Outlook: The receiving corps will be fine in the transitional phase, but it's all about the future with a talented class coming in to provide more speed, skill and talent to an already good group. Tyler Russell will make everyone look better.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Offensive Line

Potentially the team's biggest strength, the line welcomes back four starters and should be a rock at times in pass protection. When it's time to pound away for the ground game, everything will work behind 6-4, 335-pound senior Gabe Jackson, an All-America candidate with NFL upside and talent for any style of pro attack. The left guard is very big, very experienced and very active with the strength to start at the next level right now, much less an SEC team. A great recruit for the program four years ago, he's the anchor.

While Jackson is the star on the left side, 6-7, 310-pound junior Blaine Clausell isn't a bad option at tackle. The veteran beefed up over the last few years and should be more than ready to handle himself better at the position. A great athlete, he's good in pass protection and he proved he could be a nice replacement for Derek Sherrod and should become an all-star with a little more time logged in. He'll be backed up by redshirt freshman Justin Senior, a 6-5, 300-pound talent from Montreal who could play almost anywhere up front. Mostly a guard prospect, he's showing enough skill to be tried out at tackle.

6-7, 305-pound Charles Siddoway went the JUCO route going to Butte College before landing in Starkville. The Eugene, Oregon native got away from the Ducks, became a JUCO All-American and ended up starting all of last season for MSU at right tackle. Smart, big and tough, he turned out to be exactly what the line needed. As good as Siddoway is, though, he has to hold off junior Damien Robinson, a great-looking 6-8, 335-pound blocker who saw time on special teams but stepped up his game this offseason. Good enough to start, he's a massive-bodied tackle who can engulf his man.

Junior Dillon Day has been a steady starter for the last two seasons and is doing a nice job of making the line his. The 6-4, 300-pound center isn't a mauler or a huge blaster of a blocker, but he worked to get up to his current weight and showed last year that he could work at a high SEC level. Smart, he has no problems being the leader of the line.

Sophomore Justin Malone will step in at right guard, but he has the potential to someday work at tackle. At 6-7 and 320 pounds he has excellent size with a great frame and enough time logged in to be just fine. He started four times last season and did a nice job despite his lack of experience. He'll soon be one of the key parts of the line, no matter where he plays, while 6-5, 300-pound junior Archie Muniz is a decent veteran who has seen more than his share of time on special teams and can work both as a tackle or guard.

Watch Out For … Jake Thomas and Kent Flowers. The Bulldogs were able to land two fantastic offensive tackle prospects, and while they're pickups for the future, they have the talent to grow into big-time SEC blockers. The 6-5, 300-pound Flowers needs to get bulkier and stronger, but one of the state's best prospects is a technician. As good as he's expected to be, Thomas is supposed to be even better. Smart enough to be wanted by Stanford, he's another 6-5, 300-pound polished blocker with the room and upside to become an anchor on the outside.
Strength: Experience. Malone should be more than fine in place of Tobias Smith at right guard, and the rest of the line is back intact after a nice year or rebuilding and remolding. Cohesion won't be an issue.
Weakness: Blocking the elite SEC defensive lines. It's a good, talented group that knows what it's doing, but it's not quite elite enough skill-wise to be able to do much against teams with NFL-caliber talent up front. If MSU wants to be good enough to challenge for the SEC West, the front five has to do more against the top-shelf lines.
Outlook: A possible problem going into last season, the line became far better in pass protection and turned into a tough, cohesive unit that came up with a great year and should be even stronger going into this season. There's enough depth to survive if injuries strike, but if the front five stays healthy, this will quietly be a massive positive.
Unit Rating: 7.5

- 2013 Miss State Preview | 2013 Miss State Offense
- 2013 Miss State Defense | 2013 Miss State Depth Chart