Throughout the course of history of Mississippi State, there have been very few elite level receivers to play in Starkville. Much of that has been due to the style of play almost all of the coaches for the Bulldogs have employed. Passing has mostly been done only in situations where it was absolutely necessary, or to simply keep the defense honest and not allow them to stack 8 or 9 players in the box. But ever since Dan Mullen came to Starkville, things have definitely changed.
Dan Mullen prefers the run over the pass, but Mullen has certainly brought more balance to a once run oriented team. In 2014, the Bulldogs reached new heights offensively because they incorporated the passing game more effectively. The Bulldogs averaged 280.7 yards passing and 233.1 yards rushing in 2014. Their combined average of 513.8 yards per game was the highest amount in the SEC. If the Bulldogs are going to continue the surge they created in 2014, the Wide Receivers at Mississippi State are going to have to step up.
The group of wide receivers at Mississippi State gets little praise or recognition for what they accomplished in 2014. Dak Prescott threw for nearly 3,500 yards last season, and large portion of the season he was throwing to a group of receivers that had lost the leading returning receiver from the 2013 campaign. No one really talked much of the receiving corps because Prescott was able to distribute the ball to a wide array of players all year long.
In 2014, there were 9 different players who caught at least 14 passes on the season. That means we had 9 players who were averaging a reception each game. Of those 9 players, only one averaged less than 10 yards a catch. With the number of players having productive years, it made it difficult for any one player to stand out among the rest.
Despite that, there was one who did De’Runnya Wilson was on the cusp of being an All Everything Receiver. Wilson was most effective when Jameon Lewis was playing and provided Prescott with multiple receiving threats. When Lewis went down with a leg injury, defenses were able to focus more on Wilson and limit what he could do. Even then, Wilson accumulated 47 receptions and 680 yards receiving to go along with 9 touchdowns, all of which led the team.
Wilson has the chance to be a star in 2015, but he will need the other receivers to be more of a threat than they were last year. Joe Morrow, Fred Brown, and Fred Ross return and each can contribute in different ways. Morrow finally showed in his junior season that he is capable of catching passes, and has the speed to open up plays down the field. Morrow led the team in average yards per catch at just over 20 yards a catch. Brown and Ross both had big games when Wilson was heavily covered, and they will need to make their presence even more obvious in 2015.
The one player who has yet to be mentioned is incoming JUCO transfer Donald Gray. Gray will likely take over for Jameon Lewis in the slot. Gray was a First Team All American at Co-Lin Community College for finding ways to make big plays in the middle of the field.
2104 was a record setting year for the Bulldogs passing game. They threw for more yards and more touchdowns than they ever have in previous years. When the spring game takes place this Saturday during Super Bulldog Weekend, be on the lookout for which receivers step up. The coaches want to know who they can rely on in September. And if the Bulldogs want to capitalize on their success from last season, the receivers will play a big role in achieving that goal.