Mississippi State is off to a 2-0 start in year two under Mike Leach. Mississippi State benefited from impact performances by several different players to secure the wins. Mississippi State is favored on the road against Memphis and currently has an 11 game win streak against the Tigers dating back to 2011.
If Mississippi State wants to add to that total,l here are a few players who will need to continue to step up or have their first impact performance of the season.
Potential Impact Players vs. Memphis
Tulu Griffin has been the spark plug in both wins on the season. His 70-yard kickoff return against LA Tech and his kickoff return for a touchdown against NC State are plays that changed and gave Mississippi State momentum. Griffin averaged 48.8 yards a return so far but only has five catches for 51 yards.
Mike Leach needs to find creative ways to include Griffin more in the passing game. Griffin has game-changing speed, and he is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. I would also like to see Griffin replace Austin Williams and Jaden Walley returning punts. If Griffin cannot get going in the passing game, let him eat on special teams.
The rushing attack Leach utilized against LA Tech was nonexistent against NC State. The Bulldogs rushed for just 30 yards and no touchdowns. The Bulldogs pulled out the win, but I feel like Mississippi State needs decent yards on the ground from Woody Marks and Dillon Johnson. I have to admit while they were not effective in the run game, both backs combined for 13 catches for 98 yards.
Charlton collected the first sack of his Bulldog career against NC State. I would like to see him have his first multiple-sack game against Memphis. Charlton has the tools to become the next great Bulldog pass rusher.
If Charlton struggles to sack the quarterback, veteran Aaron Odom is a capable pass rusher. Odom recovered a crucial fumble against LA Tech and also had a sack against NC State. If I were making the call on pass-rush situations, It would be Odom and Charlton at the ends and Jaden Crumedy at nose tackle.
I expect Brule’ to become the defensive leader and impact the game on defense, especially after playing alongside Erroll Thompson last year. Brule’ is an athletic defender who excels in stopping the run, in coverage, and rushing the passer. Brule’ has 11 tackles, 2.5 TFL, and one sack.
The Bulldog defense needs a little more from Brule’ as I feel he has to take over a game and impact the game like great Bulldog backers of old. I am glad to see Jett Johnson play well, but with a nickname like Creme Brule’, he should be atop the linebacker stat sheet more than not.
Quarterbacks that face the Bulldogs this season already know they will have a tough time going after Martin Emerson and Emmanuel Forbes. The play of Richardson is crucial because I expect quarterbacks to go after Richardson often this season.
LA Tech gained a crucial first down on 4th down, and Richardson needs to make teams pay for picking on him. He has the speed and ability, and he was a 4-Star prospect out of high school. If Richardson can develop this season, he should become the next great Bulldog cornerback.