With the regular season in the rear view mirror, we take a look this week at five positions MSU must beef up for the 2013 campaign. Today we begin with wide receivers.
MSU is losing a ton of production and experience from this spot, with four seniors bidding farewell. Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark and Chris Smith have combined for 133 catches, 1,895 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. The other senior is Brandon Heavens (seven catches, 123 yards), and when you toss in sixth-year senior tight end Marcus Green (19 catches, 215 yards, six TDs), State is losing its top four ball-catchers.
Bumphis has been the big playmaker this fall, with 55 catches for 904 yards and an SEC-leading 12 touchdowns. Smith (45-540, 2 TDs) and Clark (33-451) have been reliable, while Green has been a big weapon in the red zone. They will all be sorely missed. This number puts it in perspective: MSU is losing 76 percent of its receiving production.
So, who’s got next? There are plenty of candidates, but most of them are unproven. Let’s take a look at who’s returning.
• Robert Johnson, So.: A big target (6-foot-1, 220 pounds), RoJo took a while to catch on, but he’s shown a lot of promise this season. He’s got 17 catches for 164 yards (9.6 ypc) and two touchdowns. Will he be a solid possession receiver in the mold of Smith? Johnson needs to find more consistency and fearlessness to fill that role. Perhaps he can be a downfield threat, but we’ve not seen much evidence of that yet.
• Jameon Lewis, So.: A slot receiver, he’s supposed to be the heir apparent to Bumphis. But Lewis has yet to produce: In two seasons, he has 17 catches for 251 yards and a touchdown. He’s fast, but he doesn’t always go where he’s supposed to. Lewis is far too fond of ad-libbing, which means quarterback Tyler Russell can’t trust him.
• Joe Morrow, R-Fr.: There was a good bit of hype for the 6-4, 205-pound Morrow in the spring and preseason. He was being hailed as the sort of receiver MSU hasn’t had in years: A big target who can stretch defenses, out-jump defenders and shield them with his big body. Whether those expectations were fair is debatable, but he certainly didn’t live up to them, with just five catches for 53 yards (10.6 ypc) in eight games. State certainly could’ve used him this season, but you have to give a kid that young a grace period. Well, the grace period is over.
• Ricco Sanders, Jr.: This season, he has one catch for 3 yards in seven games. Moving on.
• Malcolm Johnson, So.: The tight end has shown himself to be a playmaker, having turned in a solid freshman season. This fall has been a quiet one, partly due to his missing the first five games with a pectoral injury. Johnson had a big TD catch against Tennessee, but otherwise he’s been used sparingly: eight catches for 147 yards, but that 18.7 average reminds us how big a threat he can be downfield.
• Brandon Hill, So.: Another tight end, Hill has had some nice moments this season, and he has five catches for 46 yards. Redshirt freshman Rufus Warren (zero catches in six games) could be in the mix here next fall.
MSU also has some redshirts who will get a shot next year, including Fred Brown, Deonte Evans and Brandon Holloway. There are also five receivers in the 2013 commitment class, including a pair of juco players expected to contribute immediately, Jeremey Chappelle and Corey Smith.