By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – The burning question entering last season was whether Mississippi State’s passing game would suffer with the loss of five wide receivers.
A crop of young wideouts were thrown onto the field in 2013 under the guidance of new receivers coach Billy Gonzales and produced one of the most prolific years in school history catching the football.
The Bulldogs set new offensive records with 244.5 passing yards per game and aired it out for 3,178 yards on the year.
And MSU has its top seven wide receivers back this fall.
“We’ve got a veteran group of players right now which is great,” Gonzales said. “The first couple of days of practices out there have been a night and day difference from last year. You’ve got a group of guys that have been around the program and understands what coach (Dan) Mullen wants.”
Gonzales inherited an inexperienced unit that had 43 career catches and one start entering camp last fall. That same group caught 163 passes a year ago led by rising seniors Jameon Lewis and Robert Johnson.
Lewis led the team with 64 grabs for 923 yards and five touchdowns ranking fifth in the SEC in catches per game and seventh in yards per game.
The versatile 5-foot-9, 183-pounder finished the season strong by setting the school’s single-game receiving record in the Liberty Bowl, catching nine passes for 220 yards.
“This is my fifth year here, and it is the best team thus far on offense and defense,” Lewis said. “We’re loaded with so many weapons who can do so many different things. We’re going to keep [opponents] on their toes.”
Johnson was second on the team, hauling in 34 passes for 389 yards in 2013. Johnson has shed 14 pounds in the offseason down to 211 to gain his speed back.
The Bulldogs also return De’Runnya Wilson, who emerged as a go-to threat late last season as a true freshman. Wilson caught 26 passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns in just his second year of organized football.
Wilson (6-foot-5) is one of three tall wideouts on State’s roster joining junior Joe Morrow (6-foot-4) and redshirt freshman Shelby Christy (6-foot-3).
“We’ve got a lot of potential,” Wilson said. “We can be great. We’ve got a great coach who is going to push us to the limit. He’s going to put us in the best position where we need to be.”
Sophomores Fred Ross and Fred Brown will see their roles expanded as will redshirt freshman Gabe Myles, who converted from the secondary to the slot in the spring.
“(Myles) is a guy who played quarterback in high school so he understands the concepts of the offense and what we’re trying to do,” Gonzales said. “He’s picked up the game pretty fast right now. He’s an explosive guy.”
The Bulldogs also added a pair of signees to the mix at receiver this fall in former Newton County four-star prospect Jamoral Graham and Under Armor All-American Jesse Jackson of Petal.