Hope and concern: Mississippi State

June, 26, 2009
6/26/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Biggest reason for hope: Strength up the middle on defense

Mississippi State needed an enforcer on defense and got one in the form of junior college newcomer Pernell McPhee, who was dominant this past spring from his tackle position. He's athletic enough to play end, but was such a force inside that the Bulldogs will keep him there. There were times on the practice field that he wrecked everything the offense was trying to do. He has a chance to be one of those new faces in the league that everybody in the country knows by the end of the season. He also has a menacing cast of linebackers behind him, led by Jamar Chaney in the middle. Chaney is back for his senior season after breaking his ankle in the opener a year ago. He's flanked by K.J. Wright and Chris White, another impressive junior college newcomer. All three linebackers weigh 240-plus pounds and are fierce tacklers. It will be no picnic trying to run the ball on the Bulldogs this season.

Biggest reason for concern: Too much new on offense

Much of the spring was devoted to installing Dan Mullen's spread offense, and the truth is that it won't be fully installed until the Bulldogs can add some more firepower at receiver. A few of the freshmen enrollees will help this season, but you know what they say about first-year players in the SEC. Quarterback Tyson Lee isn't entirely new, but this will be his first season running this offense. It will also be the first time that he's entered a season as the starter, and that's assuming there are no surprises in preseason practice and somebody beats him out. Even though the new staff has had the spring and will also have the preseason to get a better feel for the personnel on offense, it's difficult to be sure who can do what until you see them in the games. All in all, the Bulldogs figure to be pretty limited in what they will be able to do on offense this first season under Mullen.

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