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2009 CFN Mississippi State Preview
Mississippi State LB Jamar Chaney
Mississippi State LB Jamar Chaney
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 3, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Mississippi State Bulldogs

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Preview 2009

By Pete Fiutak

- 2009 CFN Mississippi State Preview | 2009 Mississippi State Offense
- 2009 Mississippi State Defense | 2009 Mississippi State Depth Chart
- 2008 MSU Preview | 2007 MSU Preview | 2006 MSU Preview


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Head coach: Dan Mullen
1st year
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 22, Def. 18, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 27
Ten Best Bulldog Players
1. RB Anthony Dixon, Sr.
2. LB K.J. Wright, Jr.
3. LB Jamar Chaney, Sr.
4. DT Pernell McPhee, Jr.
5. LB Chris White, Jr.
6. SS Charles Mitchell, Soph.
7. OT Derek Sherrod, Jr.
8. FS Zach Smith, Jr.
9. QB Tyler Russell, Fr.
10. CB Marcus Washington, Sr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2-10

2009 Record:
0-0

9/5 Jackson State
9/12 at Auburn
9/19 at Vanderbilt
9/26 LSU
10/3 Georgia Tech
10/10 Houston
10/17 at Middle Tennessee
10/24 Florida
10/31 at Kentucky
11/7 OPEN DATE
11/14 Alabama
11/21 at Arkansas (Little Rock)
11/28 Ole Miss

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
6-6
2008 Record
: 4-8

8/30 at La Tech L 22-14
9/6 SE Louisiana W 34-10
9/13 Auburn L 3-2
9/20 at Georgia Tech L 38-7
9/27 at LSU L 34-24

10/4 OPEN DATE 

10/11 Vanderbilt W 17-14
10/18 at Tennessee L 34-3
10/25 Middle Tenn W 31-22
11/1 Kentucky L 14-13

11/8 OPEN DATE 

11/15 at Alabama L 32-7
11/22 Arkansas W 31-28
11/28 at Ole Miss L 45-0

Why not Mississippi State?

No, MSU football will never get to a consistently dominant level like a Florida or an LSU, but that doesn't mean it can't be a South Carolina and become a regular on the bowl circuit and a bit of a player in the SEC race if everything breaks the right way. If Arkansas can catch lightning in a bottle and play for the SEC title in 2007, and if Ole Miss can go from 3-9 one year to the Cotton Bowl the next, and a preseason top ten spot to follow, then certainly Mississippi State can put things together and become more than just solid.

And it might not take the moving of heaven and earth for the Bulldogs to come up with a nice record. When everything worked well, and all the breaks went the right way, MSU was able to go 8-5 in 2007 with nice wins over Auburn and Alabama. Last year, MSU didn't get the big turnovers and didn't have much in the way of luck and finished 4-8 with the head coach getting canned.

It's not just that MSU sputtered and struggled last year under Sylvester Croom, it's that MSU sputtered and struggled and Ole Miss became really good really fast. When you lose to your rival 45-0, there are usually changes to follow. Ed Orgeron had stockpiled NFL talent on the lines, and Houston Nutt was able to come in and reap the benefits. New Bulldog head coach Dan Mullen won't get the same base of talent to walk into right away, but there's enough on this year's team to be better.

If the 2008 Bulldogs could be 4-8 with one of the nation's most inept offenses, no pass rush, and the worst special teams in the SEC, then with a little improvement it's not all that far-fetched to think that this year's team could be three games better. If last year's team had any semblance of an offense, MSU would've beaten Louisiana Tech, Auburn, and Kentucky to finish 7-5. Of course, two of the wins came against Vanderbilt and Arkansas by a total of six points, so the margin could swing the other way as well in an improved SEC.

Step one will be to improve the talent level, and Mullen was able to do that almost immediately by getting/keeping the top recruits Croom had landed going into this season. QB Tyler Russell has the potential to be the face of a new era of MSU football with a live arm and next-level upside, but he could need a year or three of seasoning. Ready to roll right off the lot will be WR Leon Berry, DT Pernell McPhee, and LB Chris White, three JUCO transfers who could be the best players at their respective positions at some point this year. Step two will be to do something, anything to get the offense moving.

The defense will be great. the back seven is loaded, even with three new starters in the secondary, and the pass rush will come around, at least compared to last year. The offense, Mullen's specialty, will revolve around an improved line that gets four players with significant starting experience back, paving the way for Anthony Dixon and a good group of backs. The receiving corps needs work, but it won't be worse than last year, and can't be, while the quarterback play should be better now that the position coaching has improved and with a player like Russell ready to push Tyson Lee.

So why not Mississippi State? there are too many holes to fill and too be a talent deficiency to come up with a huge year, but there's no reason there can't be giant steps to made before a strong 2010.

What to watch for on offense: The receivers. The fan base will want Tyler Russell to be under center last year, but Tyson Lee might not be that bad an option if he gets a little more time to work and if he gets better play from the receiving corps. Brandon McRae is trying to get over a broken leg, but he should be ready by the start of the season to be a No. 1 to work around. The key to the offense might be the expected emergence of O'Neal Wilder, Terrance Davis and Leon Berry, three newcomers to the rotation who should provide an instant upgrade to the corps. If these three are merely adequate, the offense might finally start cranking out points and yards on a consistent basis.

What to watch for on defense: Pernell McPhee. The linebacking corps could be the best in the SEC with the return of Jamar Chaney from injury and the addition of JUCO transfer Chris White to go along with veteran K.J. Wright, and the secondary will be solid with Charles Mitchell and Zach Smith two good young safeties ready to shine and with Marcus Washington a good veteran corner. Now the line has to come around, and it could all start on the inside with McPhee, an unstoppable pass rusher who was dominant in spring ball. If he's the anchor who makes offenses worry, the rest of the line should come around.

The team will be far better if …
it does all the little things right. On straight talent, MSU might be the 10th best team in the SEC, probably 11th, finishing just ahead of Vanderbilt. To win games, there can't be any issues with the periphery areas like special teams, after finishing 11th in the SEC in both kick and punt returns, last in net punting, and ninth in turnover margin. There can't be too many missed field goals, there need to be more third down stops, and there can't be any dumb mistakes. Basically, the team has to get tighter overall.

The Schedule: Even the games that should be breaks aren't breaks for an MSU team trying to build back to respectability. While Jackson State is certainly a layup, the rest of the non-conference schedule is tougher than it looks playing Georgia Tech, a loaded Houston offense, and with a trip to Middle Tennessee, who should be among the best in the Sun Belt. Getting Vanderbilt and Kentucky from the East should be a break, but both of those games are on the road. Getting Florida at home won't matter. There isn't a killer stretch of road games while the week off comes in November just before facing Alabama.

Best Offensive Player: Senior RB Anthony Dixon. He has been the Bulldog offense for the last two years, and now he's built to do even more. In better shape, arguably in the best condition of his career, he'll be the workhorse for the attack yet again and will be used as a receiver and under center at times just to get the ball in his hands. With more downfield passing and more production from the line, Dixon should finish his career with a bang.

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB K.J. Wright. The return of Jamar Chaney from an ankle injury gives the defense its leader back, and McPhee could be the star of the show from day one, but Wright is the one the NFL scouts are going to be most interested in seeing. The 6-4, 245-pounder is good enough to play anywhere on a pro defense with good pass rushing ability and sideline-to-sideline range. He won't lead the team in tackles, but he'll be in the top three.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Tyson Lee. Here's the perfect scenario, within reason. Lee turns out to be a gutty, grindy leader who makes things happen with his legs and his arm with just enough production to keep Tyler Russell on the bench. Russell is able to take a redshirt season with the idea that he'll be ready to roar in 2010, Lee keeps the offense moving and comes up with a few key early wins, and the offense starts to work with the infusion of ideas from the new coaching staff. The more likely scenario is that Lee is fine, but nothing special, and the Russell era begins halfway through the September 19th game against Vanderbilt.

The season will be a success if ... MSU gets back to a bowl game. It's not going to be easy to get to six wins considering Georgia Tech and Houston are in the non-conference mix. Beating Jackson State and Middle Tennessee are the obvious must-wins, while getting Kentucky and Vanderbilt from the East is a nice break. It'll take an upset over someone like Auburn, Arkansas, or, dream of dreams this year, Ole Miss, to get to a bowl, but this team might be just good enough to do it.

Key game: Nov. 28 vs. Ole Miss. The SEC opener at Auburn would be a huge jump-start of a win if the Bulldogs could pull it off, and coming up with a road win over Kentucky and/or Arkansas is a must to get to a bowl, but it's all about Ole Miss and trying to get the rivalry to swing back their way. No one's expecting huge things out of the first year in the Dan Mullen era, but if he can pull off a win in the Egg Bowl, everyone will be jacked up for next year.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- Fourth down conversions: Opponents 10-of-11 (91%) - Mississippi State (8-of-18 (44%)
- Sacks: Opponents 36 for 261 yards - Mississippi State 19 for 117 yards
- Third quarter scoring: Opponents 78 - Mississippi State 38

- 2009 CFN Mississippi State Preview | 2009 Mississippi State Offense
- 2009 Mississippi State Defense | 2009 Mississippi State Depth Chart
- 2008 MSU Preview | 2007 MSU Preview | 2006 MSU Preview


   

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