When Chad Bumphis chose No. 1 for his jersey, it was a nod to former Florida standout Percy Harvin, who confounded defenses with his electric speed and playmaking ability.
Bumphis is so far living up to his number, as he became Mississippi State’s most reliable ball-catcher as a freshman. The Tupelo product led the team with 32 catches for 375 yards and flashed Harvin-like ability in earning SEC all-freshman honors.
A big reason for his good start was that MSU’s options at receiver were so few. And it should be noted that Bumphis’ 31.3 yards per game only ranked 25th in the SEC.
The depth at receiver hasn’t greatly improved. Brandon McRae, the top receiver in 2008, is now trying to make his way in the NFL, and deep threat O’Neal Wilder quit football to focus on track.
That means senior Leon Berry and a whole lot of youngsters must step up their game.
As a junior college transfer, Berry had a disappointing 2009, with just 14 catches for 170 yards.
Sophomores Brandon Heavens, Chris Smith and Charles Bailey will need to contribute.
“I feel there’s about four (receivers) that would be ready to step on the field right now for us,” coach Dan Mullen said after spring practices. That’s about half of what he needs.
Tight end Marcus Green, a junior, is practically a receiver, with good enough size and athleticism to create matchup problems. He was second on the team with 27 catches for 306 yards.
Each week, we’ll look at a different position for Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Last week: Defensive backs. Next week: Defensive line.
Check out more college football news at College Football Extra in today’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal