Friday, April 8, 2011
Exiting the spring: Mississippi State
By Edward Aschoff
Spring game: 6 p.m. ET Saturday on CSS and ESPN3.com
Mississippi State is expecting big things from returning quarterback Chris Relf this season.
Questions answered: Nobody questioned how much of an athlete quarterback Chris Relf was last season. However, his ability to match his feet with his arm was a bit of a concern until the end of the season, when he passed for more than 200 yards in the final three games with six touchdown passes and one interception. This spring, Relf has continued where he left off, and has cemented himself as the Bulldogs starting quarterback. He looked as confident as ever this spring and used his arm just as much as his feet to help Mississippi State’s offense shine during scrimmages this spring. Assisting Relf is a slew of quality receivers. Besides star Chad Bumphis, the Bulldogs got a ton of production from Arceto Clark, who moved from cornerback, and have reliable targets in Chris Smith and Ricco Sanders. The Bulldogs showed they could run the ball last season, but now it appears they can throw the ball as well.
Questions unanswered: The Bulldogs had the tough task of replacing three starting linebackers this spring. While the defense did well this spring under new coordinator Chris Wilson, it won’t be known how the Bulldogs’ new linebackers will fair until the season gets underway. Cameron Lawrence, who entered the spring as a starter, was the most productive at the position last year, so the rest of the unit should lean on him. Fellow starters Brandon Wilson and Chris Hughes combined for 30 total tackles last season. The Bulldogs will get boost at linebacker this summer when Brandon Maye, a three-year starter at Clemson, transfers in. The Bulldogs entered the spring looking to replace Pernell McPhee at defensive end. So far, no one has truly emerged, but rising juniors Trevor Stigers and Shane McCardell are battling for the spot McPhee left. The two combined for 23 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss
Spring stars: Running back Vick Ballard picked up where he left off last season, having a very nice spring. While Ballard is the unquestioned starter at running back, LaDarius Perkins has helped with the distribution of carries this spring. He’s a speedier and shiftier back, who adds a different dimension to the position. Bumphis has continued to be the most consistent receiver the Bulldogs have, but Clark really impressed during scrimmages this spring and should be a very reliable No. 2 for Relf this fall. Defensive back Corey Broomfield continues to be a threat. He scored a touchdown, forced a fumble and recorded a sack in a scrimmage this spring. Defensive end Sean Ferguson isn’t McPhee, but he held his own at defensive this spring. Now, finding someone to play opposite him is the next step.
Of note: Tight end Marcus Green was limited after partially tearing the ACL and spraining the MCL in his right knee last season in the second game. … Despite breaking his collarbone and missing last season’s Gator Bowl, Bumphis was full go this spring. … Sophomore Baker Swedenburg has done well this spring at punter after taking over for last season’s starter Heath Hutchins. … Though Johnthan Banks has gotten work at safety, coach Dan Mullen said that move might not be permanent. … Defensive back Jamerson Love (hand) and offensive lineman Sam Watts (leg) both suffered injuries late this spring. Safety Nickoe Whitley (knee) didn’t practice this week and could miss Saturday’s game.