2014 Miss St Preview: What You Need To Know
Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott
Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott
Posted Jul 16, 2014

Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Mississippi State (Getty Images)

2014 Mississippi State Preview

What You Need To Know...

- 2014 Mississippi State Preview  
What You Need To Know About The Offense: The attack did a nice job last season, finishing 42nd in the nation, but it was inconsistent with problems scoring in key moments against the better teams. This year, the offense has the potential to be far more efficient and far more dangerous with Dak Prescott a rising superstar quarterback and a potential devastating dual-threat option as the leader. Four starters are back up front, the running back situation is fine with Josh Robinson ready to do more with LaDarius Perkins done, and WR Jameon Lewis and TE Malcolm Johnson great targets for Prescott. The running game will control things, but if Prescott can keep progressing as a passer, look out.

What You Need To Know About The Defense: Good last year, the defense has the potential to be a killer this season with almost everyone of note returning, excellent depth, and stars to build around in LB Benardrick McKinney and rising star tackle Chris Jones. There’s an embarrassment of riches up front, with enough options to come up with waves of productive talents. All four starters are back in the secondary – at least by the end of last year – with an outstanding group of backups to get their chances, too. Can defensive coordinator Geoff Collins put it all together and improve on a D that finished 18th in the nation? It could stand to be a bit better on third downs, and needs to be stronger against the better passing games, but keeping everyone fresh won’t be a problem and – knock on wood – injuries shouldn’t be an issue with so much depth.

1. LB Bednardrick McKinney, Jr.
At 6-5 and 245 pounds, the veteran is built to work just about anywhere in the linebacking corps or as an end, but he can do a little of everything in the middle of the defense leading the team with 71 tackles and 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss, coming up with a season-high ten tackles against Kentucky, but promising to be steady throughout the season. While he might not have come up with the massive stats he put up as a freshman – cranking out 102 stops – but he’s bigger, has two years of experience at a high level, and he’s proven. The former dual-threat quarterback can move with great ranged and a big pop, and now there’s no question – this is his defense. He’s the leader and star.

2. QB Dak Prescott, Jr.
Who says it’s a down year for SEC quarterbacks? It might be a bit of a stretch to call Prescott the next really big thing in a Cam Newton/Johnny Manziel sort of way, but he could be on the verge of superstardom if he can build off his whale of a 2013 campaign. Originally a part of rotation, he eventually became too good to keep off the field – and it helped that he was pressed into more work. Everyone knew he could run, but he grew into a better passer than expected, completing 58% of his passes for 1,940 yards and ten scores with seven picks, but three of the touchdown passes came in the bowl win over Rice and three came against Alcorn State and Troy. What he lacked at times as a passer he made up for with his great running ability, coming up with 154 yards against Texas A&M, 133 against Auburn, and 139 against Bowling Green on the way to a team-leading 829 yards and 13 scores, averaging 6.29 yards per carry.

He might be 6-2 and 235 pounds, and me might be built like a linebacker, but he’s a physical runner who has to stay on the field. Out for the Alabama and Arkansas games with a nerve injury in his arm, he came back, but the team needs him for a full season. A great athlete, he was wanted by other SEC schools, but not necessarily as a quarterback. MSU gave him the chance to be one, and now he’s about to be truly special with the size, the smarts, and the moxie to be the perfect face of the program.

3. DT Chris Jones, Soph.
The nation’s second-ranked defensive end prospect and a phenomenal get for the program, he showed off right away what all the fuss was about with 32 tackles, three sacks and seven tackles for loss with a team-leading ten quarterback hurries as a true freshman. An elite athlete who flies off the snap in a blur, he might be raw and he might need some polish, but the 6-5, 250-pounder has rare skills with NFL upside. Wanted by everyone including all of the top SEC schools, he might not technically be a starter, but that’s semantics. He’s one of the nation’s most promising interior pass rushers, and at 6-5 and 300 pounds he’s able to hold up against the run.

4. WR Jameon Lewis, Sr.
The team needed a go-to, No. 1 receiver, and Lewis became that guy, finishing with a team-leading 64 catches – the No. 2 receiver finished with 34 – for 923 yards and five scores. He only came up with one touchdown in the final six games, and he was slowed down by the better defenses, but he had a few fantastic moments with 111 yards against LSU and saving his 229-yard blow-up performance for Rice in the bowl win. The 5-9, 183-pounder isn’t all that big, but he’s extremely quick and has been a phenomenal kickoff returner over the last two seasons. He might struggle a bit as a punt returner, but the skills are there to be stronger after averaging just 2.3 yards per try, but 23.5 yards on kickoffs. No, he can’t carry a passing game, but he’s an explosive weapon.

5. TE Malcolm Johnson, Sr.
While the 6-2, 231-pound veteran is built more like a fullback than a tight end, he turned in an all-star season with good blocking ability and excellent hands, catching 30 passes for 391 yards and two touchdowns. Growing into more and more of a part of the passing game, he came up with 13 of his grabs over the last four games, and with his athleticism and experience, he’ll be more of a chain-mover.

6. DE Preston Smith, Sr.
The team’s leading pass rusher in 2012, he came up with 4.5 sacks to go along with 35 tackles. While he didn’t do quite as much statistically as a sacker with 2.5 and 6.5 tackles for loss, but he was more active against the run with 44 tackles and created a ton of pressure and was a big bother for opposing quarterbacks. The 6-6, 267-pounder has interesting size, a great frame, and the experience and creativity to become more of a threat. The speed and quickness are there to go along with the right body type – he filled it out a bit. With the experience up front to take the pressure off, he should come up with far more big moments.

7. OT Blaine Clausell, Sr.
Now that Gabe Jackson is gone, Clausell is the best returning lineman and a terrific anchor to work around. At 6-7 and 315 pounds, he’s massive with a great wingspan and the outstanding athleticism for his size to handle SEC pass rushers. The starting left tackle will be the leader and star of the veteran line, and now the NFL spotlight will be on him after scouts spent the last few years watching Jackson and former star Derek Sherrod.

8. RB Josh Robinson, Jr.
Dak Prescott will be the team’s best rushing option, and LaDarius Perkins is gone after leading the running backs with 542 yards and two touchdowns, but Robinson made his own noise finishing third on the team with 459 yards and three touchdowns averaging 5.9 yards per try and catching 12 passes for 115 yards. He came through when needed against Arkansas, showing glimpses of what he could do with 101 yards on just 17 carries, and was a great part of the rotation for a few carries per game. At 5-9 and 215 pounds he has good, compact size, and he can move – he’s one of the team’s fastest offensive players. He came up with a great offseason, and he could bust out into a 1,000-yard back with enough work.

9. CB Jamerson Love, Sr.
He had the next-to-impossible task of having to help replace outstanding corners Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, and he did his part with three picks and a team-leading seven broken up passes. The 5-10, 175-pounder isn’t a big tackler, making 27 stops, but that wasn’t his job. Very fast and with the experience of being a good part of the secondary for the last few years, he needs to be the shutdown defender in the secondary and has to make even more big things happen. He won’t be tested as much, but he’ll get plenty of chances.

10. S Kendrick Market, Jr.
Not all that huge as a strong safety, the 5-10, 188-pounder went into last season as a good part of a rotation and turned into a key starter, finishing third on the team with 62 tackles. Can he do more as a pass defender with just one broken up pass and no picks? More of a big-hitting run stopper than a playmaking pass defender, he’s excellent in the open field, leading the team with 42 solo stops, but he has the athleticism to do far more.

- 2014 Mississippi State Preview