Mississippi State Preview 2006 F. Analysis
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Mississippi State Bulldogs Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – And, you are…? – When Sylvester Croom left the Green Bay Packers three years ago to come to Starkville, bringing a version of the West Coast offense with him, a quarterback needed to come with him (maybe that Favre guy had some eligibility left).  After arriving, Croom moved Omarr Conner to the starting QB position and tried to fit the round peg in the proverbial square hole.  Conner made improvements over his two years as the starter, but it was evident that he wasn’t the right fit for the Bulldogs offensive scheme, as a change was made near the end of the season.  That change moved Michael Henig into the starting lineup, but the results were, well, ‘mixed’ might be the best way to describe it.  On the ‘up’ side, Henig led the Bulldogs to a momentum building win over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, throwing two touchdowns to break open a close game in the fourth quarter.  The redshirt sophomore has grown up in this offense, coming to MSU as a member of Croom’s first recruiting class, so he should be ready to take the controls and help provide some offensive punch in 2006.  The offensive line is experienced and there are some athletically gifted receivers, including the aforementioned Conner, so Henig isn’t at a loss for help on his side of the ball.  But, there isn’t a team that can survive poor to average quarterback play and get to a bowl game from the SEC.  So, there’s a ton of pressure on Henig to make sure that the QB position doesn’t continue to be a revolving door.  When we do our 2007 previews next season, we should know full well who Henig is, or we’ll be asking the same questions about who the new QB is going to be.

2nd and Seven – Strength up the Middle – No matter what sport people play, you must be solid up the middle, and the Bulldogs are definitely strong in their defensive ‘middle’ – their two starting defensive tackle positions.  Both Andrew Powell and Deljuan Robinson started all 11 games last season, and they’ve been in the starting lineup 41 times over their careers.  Their presence in the middle creates an advantage for the Bulldog defense against the guard-center-guard combinations they’ll face.  These two won’t wow you with production, but they’ll tie up blockers, allowing the Bulldog linebackers free to make plays in the A and B gaps, without taking on massive guards and centers

3rd and Three – “Linebacker names that start with Q, for a $1,000, Alex” – Repeat after me - Quinton Culberson.  What a great name; a linebacker name if there ever was one.  And, a tremendous player - one who’ll be up for All-SEC linebacker honors.  Culberson, the Bulldogs middle linebacker packs a punch with his 239 pounds, making tackles all over the field.  He registered 78 tackles in 2005 to lead MSU.  In addition, he and his mates held runners to only 3.7 yards per game, and with the two aforementioned defensive tackle studs in front of Culberson, that number should decrease and bring the ball back to the offense more in 2006.

4th and One – Year III – No matter how a coach has fared in his first two years on campus, the third year of any coach’s reign is THE year to truly assess where a program is headed.  This year is that year for Croom and his staff.  The first two years didn’t produce many victories, but Croom has had the time to establish his plan and his rules and lead this program the way that he’s wanted.  With those years in the rearview mirror, Bulldog fans will want, and perhaps expect, results.  Moral victories, as important as they might be, won’t cut it any longer.  The Bulldogs’ head man has lived through the bumps and bruises of playing youngsters for the past two years and this should be the year he and MSU reap the benefits.  17 returning starters are back on campus, which is a solid start, and they should know by now what Sly expects from his student-athletes.  That’s definitely a positive, but then again, the ‘divide’ between LSU, Auburn and Alabama and the rest of the SEC West was fairly large at the end of last season.  Is MSU’s experience enough to bridge that gap?  Is Year III going to be a positive one?  It has to be for Croom and the Bulldogs.

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