Reason No. 14: More Experience, Less Dependence on Youngsters

There are many reasons to believe Mississippi State will equal or exceed last season’s success – 31 reasons, in fact. Here’s Reason No. 14.

Dan Mullen didn’t have the convenience of experienced and scheme-fitting personnel when he took over the program. He had to plug holes with whatever parts were lying around, and often that meant throwing fresh meat – true freshmen – on the field.

In 2009, seven scholarship freshmen played for State, and each player got on the field in all 12 games. They drew 23 starts between them. The position in worst shape at the time was receiver, where Chad Bumphis took over the lead role and was aided by fellow freshmen Brandon Heavens and Chris Smith.

Last year, however, Mullen used only three scholarship freshmen. None of them played in more than 11 games, and none drew even one start. Eighteen of that year’s signees redshirted, and that’s exactly how Mullen likes it.

While MSU did lose some key players last year, most notably on defense, it still returns 16 starters: eight on offense, seven on defense and kicker Derek DePasquale. According to my math, that group has made a combined 258 starts. And let’s not forget tight end Marcus Green, who owns nine career starts and is healthy again.

There’s no predicting how many freshmen Mullen will use this season, but I’d be surprised if it’s more than two or three. That’s a good sign for this year and for the future.