Much has been written about Mississippi State junior quarterback Tyler Russell and the opportunity before him this weekend.
It will be his chance to put his stamp on the program, but in order for the talented young signal caller to have success, he’ll need the Bulldog receivers to handle their end of the bargin.
Make no mistake about it, MSU has experience at the receiver position. This season, four seniors will line up as receivers with a couple of juniors and a talented couple of youngsters to round out the playermakers who’ll be in charge of making Russell look good.
"We can do something real special," said senior receiver Chris Smith, who played his high school football with Russell at Meridian High School. "All of us are being put in the position to make more plays. We've got a quarterback that can throw the ball. This year, we're trying to do the same thing. If I do my job, any play can work.”
Smith caught 35 passes last season for over 600 yards, while fellow senior Arceto Clark returns after making 30 catches for 442 yards.
Moving to a new position this season will be Brandon Heavens, who after spending the first three years for the Bulldogs in the slot, he will now move outside to play the X.
“(The move) is just more balance and getting people on the field," said MSU head coach Dan Mullen. "We’ve got five senior wide receivers, and we want to make sure we get opportunities to get them out on the field. He is, if not our fastest, one of our fastest wideouts so he gives that deep threat going on the outside and he can vertically stretch the field with his speed. His experiences make it a very easy adjustment for him and because he’s played a lot of football, he really knows all the positions."
Jameon Lewis and Chad Bumphis will remain in the slot as electric playmakers for the Bulldogs. Bumphis has thrilled State fans through out his career with dazzling catches and Lewis showed early last season his knack for making the big play.
Youth will also be served among the receivers with the debut of redshirt freshman Joe Morrow. The tall, slender receiver has quickly become a favorite target of MSU quarterbacks.
“The guys love to throw to him,” said offensive coordinator Les Keonning. “He can be covered and still be open. He just has the ability to go up and get the football.”
His teammates agree.
"We haven't had a big receiver like that,” said Clark. “We've got somebody to get jump balls. He'll be something special before it's all over. He can work the defensive backs."
While Mullen will certainly keep the running attack as a key part of the Bulldogs’ identity, the receivers will give them the option for a new look on offense.