Bulldogs building receiver depth
MSU wide receiver Leon Berry runs a drill during Thursday's practice. (Kim Murrell/SDN)
There's 15 percent of the players on Mississippi State's football fall practice roster that lists themselves as a wide receiver.
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That percentage is more than any non-lineman positional group on the Bulldogs roster.
Therefore the problem for the MSU program and head coach Dan Mullen isnâ€™t so much a quantity issue as much as finding quality in that bunch.
â€śI think theyâ€™re a little bit older and last year most of the guys playing receiver were true freshman just out of high school so they have a little bit more understanding,â€ť Mullen said.
Since spring practice Mullen has pressed uncertainty that this lack of playmakers for his spread offense wonâ€™t be solved with this current group in 2010.
â€śWe still have the youngest receiver group in the country but I think weâ€™re really talented thereâ€™s just not much time to learn the system,â€ť MSU passing game coordinator Mark Hudspeth said. â€śNow they know the system and they are way ahead of last year coming in cold turkey.â€ť
Two starters at receiver return from last year in sophomore Chad Bumphis and senior Leon Berry. However, of the 152 passes that was caught last year, that duo accounted for only 46.
â€śIt's a little bit more pressure,â€ť Berry said. â€śWhen the game comes, it's going to be a little bit more fast-paced, so we need (the newcomers) to learn it now. Without depth, you're not going to make it.â€ť
The Bulldogs offense has failed to average over 200 passing yards per game in any of the last five years.
This week marks the first college practices for true freshman scholarship receivers Brandon Hill, Michael Carr and Robert Johnson.
â€śThe key with the newcomers isnâ€™t ability now,â€ť Hudspeth said. â€śHow well they pick up everything in this offense will determine playing time.â€ť
Carr is under temporary status Tuesday and will continue to be under that category until last seasonâ€™s all-state selection can practice with the team while his NCAA paperwork is under review. Since Carr is a scholarship player, he is allowed 14 days of preseason practice before the season starts before he has to be cleared by NCAA officials.
Carrâ€™s first 10 minutes of Tuesdayâ€™s practice had the West Point High School product on a knee appearing fatigued drawing the head coachâ€™s attention.
â€śI told him not to worry,â€ť Mullen said. â€śHe hasnâ€™t gotten to go through the conditioning the rest of the team has. Physically we've got to be a little more careful with him out there on the field.â€ť
Tuesdayâ€™s split squad had the veteran starters (Bumphis and Berry) working with most of the freshman newcomers in the morning session.
Yesterdayâ€™s action was the first workout for all 105 players including every one of the 16 receivers.
A noticeable transition to the receiving corps in 2010 is a player trying to quickly make the transition from backup defensive back last year to a 5-foot-9 slot weapon this fall. Last spring when some receivers went down with injuries, Arceto Clark was asked by the coaching staff to fill in during the receiver drills to fill out the current group.
â€śItâ€™s funny because I feel like receiver comes more naturally to me but I was just at that point trying to help the team that day,â€ť Clark said.
Nobody, including Clark himself, thought the move would stick but the sophomore from Verona has worked his way into the playing time conversation with many spots open on that depth chart.
â€śHe is a receiver now that is going to give us quality depth and all he needs to do is keep working hard,â€ť Hudspeth said.
By the end of Thursdayâ€™s practice, Clark was working with first-team quarterback Chris Relfâ€™s offense during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
â€śI just consider myself a big-play guy wherever they put me,â€ť Clark said. â€śJust throw me the ball and Iâ€™ll get the job done.â€ť
After Thursdayâ€™s practice, which was the first full-team exercise this offseason, Mullen still wasnâ€™t convinced anything had been worked out this early from a depth chart spot perspective among any of the pass catchers.
â€śYou canâ€™t have a go-to receiver in this offense because theyâ€™ll just be double-covered the whole game,â€ť Mullen said this past spring. â€śItâ€™s going to take a few years of recruiting to get the playmakers we need.â€ť