Bulldogs look to get off to better start

Dan Mullen
By: 
JOEL COLEMAN
Staff Writer

Mississippi State is all too familiar with getting off on the wrong foot.

It was just last season when the Bulldogs were upset by South Alabama in the season opener.

When MSU kicks off the 2017 campaign this Saturday at 3 p.m. against Charleston Southern, State will be trying to make sure last year’s disappointment doesn’t repeat itself.

“It’s a different team and different everything,” MSU head coach Dan Mullen said Monday at his first weekly press conference of the season. “(South Alabama) was a good football team. I don’t know that we played exceptionally well last year, but that’s on the coaches and making sure we transition and put everybody in the right position to make plays.”

Though an FCS school, Charleston Southern has made noise in recent seasons having won back-to-back Big South Conference championships. The Buccaneers will look to start their quest for a third straight with a momentum-building win in Starkville.

Making MSU’s preparation difficult is Charleston Southern head coach Mark Tucker starts his first season as the Bucs’ leader after being the program’s quarterbacks coach.

“It’s a tough challenge with the team we have coming in,” Mullen said. “There’s a first-year head coach. There is a new staff, so there is nothing (on film) to watch.
“That makes it a challenge when you’re trying to see what they’re going to do and adjust to their personnel.”

MSU plans to deal with all the challenges better than it did a season ago against South Alabama. Yet Mullen isn’t expecting anything to come easy.

“(Charleston Southern is) a very experienced group that is used to winning,” Mullen said. “They’ve won two straight conference titles and looking for a third in a row. They’re (an FCS) playoff-level team and a top 15 (FCS) team. It’s a huge challenge for us to come out and play.”

Injuries

Nothing has changed on the injury front for the Bulldogs since last week.

As Mullen disclosed last Wednesday, MSU will be without wide receiver Malik Dear on Saturday as Dear continues to recover from a torn ACL he suffered in the spring. There is a chance Dear could redshirt this season.

Freshman Landon Guidry is also out with a torn ACL that he suffered in preseason camp. Freshman athlete Harry Parker might also be unavailable. He has been out recently with an infection in his elbow.

Gay, Jr. could debut

Several players will likely make their MSU debuts Saturday and among them is former Starkville High linebacker Willie Gay, Jr.

“I want to see how (the true freshmen) handle this week of practice,” Mullen said. “Willie Gay is in the rotation for us. (Kicker) Tucker Day is competing to go play. There are a couple of guys that are going to have the opportunity to go play right away, but again, this is the first time for them. I have to see how they respond right now to picking up the game plan and being ready to get on the field on game day.”

Other true freshmen who might see action include quarterback Keytaon Thompson, receiver Austin Williams and running back Kylin Hill.

Thompson still might redshirt

There are no guarantees that Thompson will see the field this Saturday or any Saturday.

Despite being MSU’s second-string quarterback, Mullen is debating whether to redshirt the highly-touted freshman.

“It’s finding whether or not we want to play him,” Mullen said of Thompson. “He’s our second-string quarterback. Now whether or not he plays is a different question. If something happened to our starter, (Thompson would likely play). If our starting quarterback didn’t get injured, that’s when the decision comes whether he steps on the field or not.”

Still waiting on Rivers

MSU is still awaiting to hear whether or not defensive lineman Chauncey Rivers, a transfer from East Mississippi Community College, will be eligible to play this season.

“Right now, we’re appealing with the NCAA and waiting to hear,” Mullen said. “Hopefully, we should know something this week whether or not that deal goes through for him to be able to play.”

Prayers up

Mullen began his Monday press conference by expressing his thoughts on the severe flooding going on in Texas associated with Hurricane Harvey that made landfall on Friday and continues to dump large amounts of rain into the state.

“There is such a huge alumni base in the Texas area, but obviously our prayers are with everybody in Houston and all through southeast Texas and all the way to Louisiana with everything that’s going on there,” Mullen said. “When all that stuff happens, it really puts our football into reality. Our prayers are with all those that are suffering though the storm right now.”

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