Two days before SEC Media Days and two weeks before players report for preseason camp, Mississippi State has released its 2011 football media guide. Snazzy cover!
Still absent from the roster are receiver Charles Bailey and defensive lineman Jeff Howie, and still no explanation from MSU on that matter. But let's forget that for now and flip to page 12, where we find an updated depth chart.
Nothing really surprising there, but there are some interesting things to point out, and all could fall under this bit of Dan Mullen philosophy: You've got to earn your spot.
For example, Brandon Maye, who just transferred in from Clemson, is listed as co-second team (with fellow senior Jamie Jones) at middle linebacker behind Brandon Wilson. The assumption by many is that Maye will eventually be the starter there, but Mullen isn't going to pull a Coach O and just hand him the job.
Also, senior Wade Bonner is listed ahead of Nickoe Whitley at free safety. After Whitley started the first 10 games of last season, Bonner got the nod for the final two regular-season games. Whitley started the Gator Bowl.
I know they'll both play, but Whitley seems like the better player. Bonner has the experience edge, though, and plays the nickelback position, too. And in MSU's scheme, the terms "free safety" and "strong safety" are used loosely.
At defensive end, Sean Ferguson is one starter, as we knew, but Trevor Stigers is listed as the other starter. I'm not fully convinced that Shane McCardell won't give Stigers a run for his money this August.
On offense, it's notable (I guess) that Chris Relf is listed as the outright No. 1 quarterback, ahead of Tyler Russell. Mullen usually has those two listed with an "OR" between their names, although I'm not sure that really fooled anyone.
There is, not surprisingly, an "OR" between the names of James Carmon and Blaine Clausell at left tackle. That's a battle that Mullen has said could go all the way up to the Sept. 1 season opener at Memphis, and beyond.
On special teams, LaDarius Perkins is listed as the kick returner, Chad Bumphis as the punt returner.