Mississippi State went 4-6 last season before winning 3 straight and finishing up 7-6 with high hopes for 2014.
Dak Prescott (6-2, 235) is the biggest reason for optimism. Prescott passed for 1,940 yards a year ago and 10 TDs, and he led the team in rushing also with 829 yards rushing and 13 TDs. Prescott missed a couple of games last year due to an elbow injury and he will need to stay healthy. I’ve seen several comparisons to Tim Tebow.
Damien Williams (6-1, 225) played some last year during his freshman year and should be the main back up in 2014. He threw for 279 yards and ran for 112 yards.
True freshman and 4 star recruit Elijah Staley (6-6, 225) should get a redshirt season unless needed. The Bulldogs also have true freshman Nick Fitzgerald (6-5, 210) at QB.
At RB Josh Robinson (5-9, 215) rushed for 459 yards in 2013. Nick Griffin (6-0, 225) could start in front of Robinson even though he only rushed for 96 yards last season.
Ashton Shumpert (6-2, 220) rushed for 190 yards last year.
Aeris Williams (6-0, 210) is an incoming 4 star recruit that could play immediately. Dontavian Lee (6-0, 210) is another freshman not quite as highly rated, but with tons of potential.
Jameon Lewis (5-9, 185) caught 64 passes last season and Robert Johnson (6-1, 210) caught 34. De’Runnya Wilson (6-5, 215) caught 26 passes and Joe Morrow (6-4, 210) caught 18 and both are back.
Fred Brown (6-1, 210) caught 5 passes in 2013 and is back for his junior year. Kareem Vance (6-5, 190) redshirted last season as did BJ Hammond (6-4, 235). Jessie Jackson (6-1, 195) is a 4 star recruit that could play soon.
Miss State used their Tight Ends last year and Malcolm Johnson (6-2, 230) is back for his senior year. Backing him up should be Darrion Hutcherson (6-7, 260) a JC transfer.
Brandon Hill (6-2, 240) broke his foot last season but should be back.
The Bulldogs return 3 starters up front, but they lost their best player in Gabe Jackson to the NFL. Left Tackle Blaine Clausell (6-7, 315) is maybe their best returning starter and a really good talent at the all important Left Tackle position.
Jamaal Clayborn (6-4, 315) should be Gabe Jackson’s replacement at Left Guard, but he has not played a down. If not Clayborn, look for senior Archie Muniz (6-5, 300) to take over here.
Returning at Center is one of the nation’s best in Dillon Day (6-4, 300). He is a 4 year starter and has already graduated.
Ben Beckwith (6-3, 305) is a former walk-on that started last season at Right Guard.
Damien Robinson (6-8, 320) is a senior with experience but has never started.
Justin Senior (6-5, 280), JC transfer Jocquell Johnson (6-4, 305), Deion Calhoun (6-3, 325), Jake Thomas (6-5, 300), Justin Malone (6-7, 300), Devon Desper (6-3, 300) and Elgon Jenkins (6-4, 285) are all young guys bringing depth and talent up front for the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State had the 4th best defense in the SEC last year. They have 10 of their top 12 tacklers back so it could be an even better defense this season.
The Bulldogs return 2 excellent Defensive Tackles in Chris Jones (6-5, 300) and Kaleb Eulls (6-4, 295). Some have Chris Jones as a Pre-Season All-American.
P.J. Jones (6-3, 295) also started last season and is also back. Curtis Virges (6-3, 315) was one of the top reserves last season and contributed. Nelson Adams (6-3, 295) is also a talented lineman that should help out.
Preston Smith (6-6, 255) is the prototype Defensive end and was one of the team’s top tacklers last season. Sophomore A.J. Jefferson (6-3, 260) played the other End and had a couple of sacks.
Ryan Brown (6-6, 260) is also back at End and
is a quality player.
Will Coleman (6-6, 250) is a JC transfer that could help out right away. Grant Harris (6-5, 260) is an incoming freshman.
MLB Benardrick McKinney (6-5, 245) was the team’s top tackler and one of America’s great football players. He is a beast and had 70 tackles, 7 for losses and 3.5 sacks.
Matthew Wells (6-2, 215) and Richie Brown (6-2, 235) are the Outside Backers and good ones, too. Both were in the top 10 on the team in tackles.
Zach Jackson (6-2, 210), Beniquez Brown (6-1, 235), Dezmond Harris (6-4, 230) and true freshmen Gerri Green (6-4, 215) and Deshon Cooper (6-4, 215) will provide quality depth.
Jamerson Love (5-10, 175) returns at one corner and Taveze Calhoun (6-1, 185) at the other. Calhoun, like Benardrick Mckinney and DT Chris Jones is one of the top players in the country. Calhoun was one of the top tacklers on the team and had 3 interceptions a year ago.
Cedric Jiles (5-10, 180) and Will Redmond (6-0, 180) should be the main back ups.
Kendrick Market (5-10, 190) is back at Strong Safety. Market was 3rd on the team in tackles a year ago. Kivon Coman (6-3, 195) is an up and coming star and played a lot as a true freshman.
Deontay Evans (5-10, 205) is a sophomore that is expected to start at Free Safety.
Dak Prescott is going to have to step up and become the player everybody thinks he is if the Bulldogs are going to turn a corner in 2014. Otherwise, it’s going to be another 7-6 or 8-5 kind of year.