Top 5 Bulldogs for 2013

Guard Gabe Jackson was a preseason first-team All-SEC pick this year. (Photo by Mansel Guerry/AP)

Guard Gabe Jackson was a preseason first-team All-SEC pick this year. (Photo by Mansel Guerry/AP)

Lists are always fun, right? Sure, so let’s do one.

A lot of MSU players have been added to preseason award watch lists – more than usual, it seems. In fact, a total of eight Bulldogs occupy 12 of these watch lists*, and it got me thinking: Who are the top five players on this year’s MSU squad?

It was a pretty tough list to compile, but after giving it much thought, I’ve come up with who I believe are the five best players on this team. I factored in pure talent, contributions thus far, accolades, all of that. I’m sure many of you will disagree with it, which is kind of the point of doing these lists, so please give me your top five players in the comments section below.

Let’s count ’em down.

5. TE Malcolm Johnson. The junior is one of the best athletes on the team and is a wide receiver at heart. He’s led the team in yards per catch each of the last two seasons (minimum 10 catches) and has a career average of 17.9 ypc. If Johnson stays healthy, he could have a big year. He’s also becoming more of an effective blocker.

4. DE Denico Autry. The senior has all the tools to be a top-shelf SEC defensive end. He’s 6-foot-6, 265 pounds, and has great quickness. It took him a while to find his way last year as a juco transfer, but he showed great promise toward season’s end. Autry could end up a star, but he still has to show he can do it consistently.

3. LB Benardrick McKinney. As a redshirt freshman, the middle linebacker was second on the team with 102 tackles, and he also had 4.5 tackles-for-loss and four pass breakups. The 6-5, 235-pounder can cover a lot of ground and play different roles, and the experience and knowledge he gained last year should help bring out even more of his abilities.

2. QB Tyler Russell. The fifth-year senior is on three of the watch lists, and for good reason. He set 11 school passing records last season, including completions (231), attempts (394), completion percentage (58.6), yards (2,897) and touchdowns (24). Russell makes this offense go, and if he can have better showings against highly ranked teams, he could reach elite status.

1. OG Gabe Jackson. Back for his senior year, Jackson anchors a strong interior part of the offensive line. He made first-team All-SEC last season (AP) and was named to the preseason All-SEC first team last week. Phil Steele lists Jackson as a second-team preseason All-American, and he’s on two watch lists (Outland, Lombardi).

*–Kudos to Kyle Niblett for compiling that watch list information.

I am the online content coordinator for I also co-host The Memo and Prep Rally podcasts and host the Newsbreak program. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04).

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  • BML51

    Tough to nitpick too much because they are the clear-cut best players, but I think I’d replace Autry with Perkins. Autry is all athlete with limited production at this point, but Perkins at times ran even better than Ballard last year.

    • bradlocke

      Yeah, I had Perkins on there originally. You make a good case for him.

  • Texas Bulldog

    you add perkins, and those are THE clear cut top players. i’d like to see a prediction list of the top 10 players by season’s end. there are a lot of guys that are gonna have to step up.

  • Brendan Duffy

    That is a safe list. And the conservative way Mullen coaches, it will probably be those guys. I agree more with the positions than the players. Those guys are solid, I guess, but if we are going to be anything better than last year, which was mediocre in my opinion, we are going to have to develop players. If these 5 step up, to replace or improve upon what we have, we can make some noise………

    1. Dak needs to take the QB job. If it takes a player 5 years to get it, they are not good enough. Tyler is a great guy, and if we had tackles to protect him, probably a very good QB. But top teams made him look VERY pedestrian. That being said, we need a mobile playmaker, and someone that is tougher, more competitive, and that refuses to lose.

    2. The tight end position can change our entire offensive field of play. Not just Malcolm, but Brandon, Gus……..They can soften the middle for the backs and isolate our new receivers so they have room to work.

    3. Perkins IS the best back, just not an SEC sized feature back. Getting Josh the ball will help the whole offense, including Perkins. Wear them down with the bowling ball, insert explosive, quick playmaker.

    4. Beniquez Brown is a ball seeking missile. If he gets the playing time, Benardrick and whoever else is out there will be freed up.

    5. We have to develop whatever 5 star recruits we get. Quay not on the 2 deep at this point is confusing at best. Chris Jones, if he is what he is supposed to be, has to play right away, even though we have depth there. Clowney did, Nkemdiche will. If he is that good, Denico, Preston, Ryan, whoever else is playing, will get less attention and flourish.

    • BML51

      I think the backup QB is almost always one of the most popular players on a mediocre-to-average team, no matter who it is.

      Prescott definitely has the physical tools to run Dan Mullen’s offense. He’s not quite as good of a runner as Chris Relf, but he looks like he’s already a better passer than Relf ever was. But he’s not a better passer than Russell. And no matter what, you still have to be able to throw the ball to win consistently.

      I don’t think you can knock Russell for a lack of toughness. I can’t count how many times last season he held on to the ball as long as he could, only to take a huge shot right before he let it rip because the offensive line couldn’t keep pass rushers off of him. I don’t know that any QB could succeed like that, and I find it doubtful that Prescott would have done any better against Alabama and LSU. However, Russell’s head definitely wasn’t in the bowl game, and I wish we would have seen Prescott after halftime or something like that.

      Russell deserves the start this season unless he completely face-plants. He’s a 5th year senior coming off what was only his first full season as a starter, and he already holds several MSU passing records. I tend to think a lot of our offensive woes last season were based more on play-calling than the caliber of skill-position players on the field.

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