By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Dan Mullen has little use for depth charts this time of year, a sentiment I enthusiastically endorse.
Just look at the depth chart Mississippi State has out there heading into spring practice, which started Thursday. Mainly, it’s just a slight reworking of the Gator Bowl depth chart, minus the departed seniors. The only thing of note is James Carmon being listed as co-first team at left tackle, although we knew in December he was moving there from the defensive side.
Nevertheless, fans will pore over that depth chart and draw their own conclusions about who will start where, who might get demoted, etc.
“I don’t pay much attention to depth charts, so probably what you saw will be very different when we break the first huddle (Thursday),” said Mullen, who led MSU to a 9-4 record last season. “And on Saturday it might be different again, and the following Tuesday you’ll probably see a different lineup when we break the huddle.”
There really is just one part of the depth chart that intrigues me: the linebackers. Because all three starters are gone, including Chris White and K.J. Wright, who are likely to be taken in the April 28 NFL Draft.
A lot of guys will get their shot at cracking the starting three (or four, depending on the defensive call). Expect the linebackers depth chart to be a living, breathing organism (ooh, sounds creepy). In other words, it’s likely to go through many changes.
But I’ll try and give you a primer anyway.
Let’s start in the middle, because that’s the most important linebacker position. It looks like three will vie for that spot: junior Brandon Wilson, junior Jamie Jones and redshirt freshman Ferlando Bohanna. Wilson got the most experience last season, playing in all 13 games and recording 17 tackles.
And from what I hear, Bohanna could be really good. Without even seeing him play yet, new linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator Geoff Collins likes what he’s seen of the Memphis product.
“He looks hungry, and he wants to be something special, and it’s my plan to help him accomplish his goals,” Collins told me last month.
At the weakside spot, MSU is trying to replace the rangy and versatile Wright, who could play the pass as well as he played the run. The leading candidates there are junior Michael Hunt and sophomore Deonte Skinner, and both have gained good experience, with Hunt making 21 tackles in 12 games.
On the strongside, Cameron Lawrence will try to move from second-string to starter in place of Emmanuel Gatling. Lawrence logged a lot of snaps last season, but I imagine he’ll still share a good bit of time with sophomore Chris Hughes.
“I want to have six that I feel comfortable winning SEC games with,” Collins said, speaking of the entire group.
Other positions of note
OK, enough of linebackers. I know what you really want to discuss: Quarterback.
MSU has four legit signal-callers, and the first person who’s able to tell me the last time that happened in Starkville can have my beachfront condo in Dubuque.
Chris Relf, a rising senior, is a shoe-in to start again if you ask me (and even if you don’t ask me). Behind him, though, Mullen called it “a wide-open race” between third-year sophomore Tyler Russell, redshirt freshman Dylan Favre and freshman Dak Prescott, who enrolled in January.
Receiver is a big position to watch, too. Junior Chad Bumphis, who broke his collarbone in the Egg Bowl, will be “full go” for the spring, and it’s a group that returns everyone but Leon Berry, whose season was cut short by injury. For the first time since Mullen arrived, that position should have some actual depth to it.
Back to defense, another potential trouble spot is defensive end. Pernell McPhee is gone, and so senior Sean Ferguson is going to have to be more than serviceable, and who knows what you’ll get out of junior Trevor Stigers or redshirt freshman Kaleb Eulls.
Mullen called the depth there “scary.” That’s scary bad, not scary good.
But the spring is when we find out a bit about these things, and once the 15 practices are over, well, then we can talk depth charts.
Mullen said offensive guard Tobias Smith, who had shoulder surgery in January, is probably out for the spring. Defensive lineman Curtis Virges, offensive linemen Archie Muniz and Sam Watts, among others, will probably be limited due to various ailments and surgeries.
Brad Locke (email@example.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.