Dan Mullen has a reputation for putting together creative and effective offenses. Who did he bring in to help him bring more explosive plays to Starkville?
Dan Mullen and Brian Johnson decided to only bring in one quarterback for the 2015 class. That QB is a 6’5, 230 pound QB by the name of Nick Tiano. Tiano is rated as the second best signal caller from the Volunteer state and chose the Maroon and White over an offer from Miami (FL). While watching his film, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Tiano, although big in stature, has the ability to escape the pass rush and make a play either through the air or on the ground. Tiano’s game has attributes that are similar to Dan Mullen proteges Dak Prescott and Tim Tebow, and what is scary is that he is actually probably a better pure passer than both, especially at this stage. Bulldog fans should be excited how Nick Tiano develops in this system.
Mississippi State has had no shortage of talented half-backs over the years, and this group looks to continue the trend. 4-star Nick Gibson headlines the group, but bruising back Alec Murphy and speedster Keith Mixon should not be overlooked. Gibson is from Alabama and picked State over an offer from the home state school, Alabama. Vick Ballard has been used as a comparison by many around the MSU program when talking about the stud from Pinson Valley. Big expectations, but Gibson’s combination of speed and strength should help him become a reliable back for years to come. Alec Murphy, the best back from the state of Missouri, adds a bruising back mentality to Mullen’s offense. Murphy has the ability to run over a linebacker and outrun a defensive back for a score. Lastly, we have Keith Mixon. Mixon has the ability to turn a 5-yard loss into a 50-yard score with his speed and vision. I expect Mullen to use Mixon similar to how he used Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey during Florida’s national championship run. The 5’8 superstar has the potential to be the next hidden gem for Mullen and company.
The famous Percy Harvin role. Mullen has brought in Chad Bumphis, Jameon Lewis, and Gabe Myles to play the role which was made famous by Harvin at Florida. Headlined by the best JUCO WR in the nation, Donald Gray, and Army All American, Malik Dear, this group may be his best yet. Gray signed with State out of high school, but had to go the JUCO route and stayed true to his word despite offers from LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and USC. Gray brings a explosiveness that has not been seen in Starkville. From the passing attack to jet sweeps to kick and punt returns, Gray is more than capable to put up six points on the score board from any part of the field. Malik Dear is one of the greatest high school playmakers to come out of the city of Jackson. Dear played QB, RB, and WR during his time at Murrah High School and always made plays and put up points for the Mustangs. Dear can play in the slot, but do not be surprised if he is utilized in the run game, as he has added muscle to his 226 pound frame. Deddrick Thomas, a top 15 player from Tennessee, is small but can make plays. Invited to ‘The Opening’, Thomas was able to put his skills to the test against the nation’s best on ESPN and did not disappoint. Thomas excited fans in the Memphis area every Friday night with his skill set. Do not be shocked if Keith Mixon is used in this role, too.
OUTSIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS:
While loading up in the slot position, State only signed one true outside receiver, Justin Johnson. The 6’4, 205 pound receiver played his high school ball for national power Hoover in Birmingham, Alabama, meaning he does not plan on losing. Being the primary option through the air, Justin Johnson was often double-teamed but put up over 600 yards receiving and scored six times, even with the Bucs heavily relying on running back Bradrick Shaw. One thing that Mullen loves about this guy is his ability to block down field. The Hoover star made many key blocks during the season and in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star Game in December. Johnson has a lot of potential to become a solid contributor for the Bulldogs. Farrod Green and Dontea Jones are the two tight ends that Mullen brought in. Both standing at 6’4 and weighing more than 220, these two have the ability to add more mass to their frame. Green can make plays in the open field and is a solid blocker. Jones can come down with any jump ball thrown in his general area. Although raw, Green and Jones could be big time in this offense.
Losing many contributors off the line, Dan Mullen and John Hevesy needed to go out and find guys capable to play and dominate the line of scrimmage. They did just that by landing top rated JUCO Offensive Tackle, Martinas Rankin, along with ESPN300 OG Darryl Williams, underrated OT Michael Story, and athletic Tackle Harrison Moon. Rankin is the number 5 overall JUCO player for a reason. His size and athleticism allows him to be a force when protecting the QB’s blind side. Rankin is expected to compete for the LT spot right away, as he enrolled in December. Darryl Williams is a man in the middle. Capable of playing either Guard or Center, Williams could get into Hevesy’s rotation this season. He uses his 304 pound body to dominate the line and create holes for running backs. Michael Story is an interesting prospect. Story popped up on schools’ radars after a solid 2014 season, but many did not know he was interested in enrolling early. Once State found out the 6’4 OT from small town Ripley, Mississippi, the staff jumped on him, and he enrolled in January. Harrison Moon played tight end for his high school in Tennessee, but transitioned to the o-line and the staff liked what they saw. Moon always worked hard during MSU’s summer camps and that earned him a scholarship. Hevesy is the coach that can turn his raw athleticism into a solid SEC lineman. Overall, this group looks good.