Bulldogs stocked with tight ends

BY LOGAN LOWERY
DAILY JOURNAL
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State tight ends coach Scott Sallach has plenty of options this season.
Sallach’s squad features five scholarship tight ends ranging in size from 6-foot-2, 231-pounds all the way to 6-foot-7, 260-pounds and showcasing a wide range of skill sets.
“I’ve got a nice mixture of older guys and younger guys,” Sallach said. “I’ve also got the whole spectrum of body types in my room now, which is a good thing.”
Seniors Malcolm Johnson and Brandon Hill provide veteran leadership to the group while sophomore Gus Walley is returning from injury. B.J. Hammond is back after a redshirt season and junior college transfer Darion Hutcherson joins the team this fall.
“We’ve all got our own unique skill set specifically,” Hill said. “Malcolm’s more of the receiving tight end and I’m more versatile. Gus is more of a wideout tight end and B.J. Has a background as a receiver too. ‘Hutch’ is that big body tight end that’s 6-foot-7. Everybody brings something different to the table.”
Because Dan Mullen’s spread offense can use so many sets, the tight ends are asked to share many differing roles within it. Sallach feels his unit can adapt to any situation due to the versatility of the group.
“In coach Mullen’s offense, it’s a very unique situation because they have to have the ability to block defensive ends, linebackers and cornerbacks,” Sallach said. “They have to understand the run game, pass game, picking up blitzes, coverages, protections and routes. The only person that has to know more than them is the quarterback.”
Johnson returns as the Bulldogs’ top receiving tight end, having hauled in 30 passes last season for 391 yards and two touchdowns. He will again be the focal part of the passing game at the position.
“He has to have a huge role for us to be successful this year,” Sallach said.
Hill, a native of Columbus, is the only other tight end to catch a pass at the Division I level but has made just eight grabs for 102 yards in his career.
Walley redshirted his true freshman season in 2012 and missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Hammond shifts to tight end after working as a receiver last fall.
‘Big, athletic kid’
Hutcherson arrived during the summer from Copiah-Lincoln Community College and quickly rose to second on the preseason depth chart.
“He’s a big, athletic kid,” Sallach said. “I like to think I’m a pretty good coach but I can’t coach him to be 6-foot-7. He’s got great feet but at the same time he’s in his first year in the program. It’s a matter of him learning the language and going against SEC players. He’s got the skill set, it’s just a matter of getting him up to speed.”
MSU also has a talented walk-on working at tight end. Rashun Dixon, a former four-star signee in 2008, returns to football after spending six years in the Oakland Athletics farm system. He’s the younger brother of Buffalo Bills running back Anthony Dixon.
logan.lowery@journalinc.com