By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Joe Morrow has gone from promising backup to the top of the depth chart, and he’s trying to play the part the right way.
Mississippi State is having to replace three starting wide receivers from last season, and Morrow, who will be a third-year sophomore this fall, is currently a leading candidate to fill one of the vacancies. There was an expectation last season that Morrow could be a big downfield option for quarterback Tyler Russell, but a knee injury hampered him.
Following Saturday’s practice – State’s second of the spring – the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Morrow said he’s “110 percent” healthy and eager to prove his worth as a No. 1 receiver.
“Being in the one spot, it’s a good thing. That means (the coaches) really trust you,” he said. “I’ve just got to do my part, make sure they believe in me, and hopefully we’ll have a good spring and a good season.”
Last season, Morrow had five catches for 53 yards in eight games.
He showed off some of his skills at Saturday’s practice, making leaping catches and beating the defense deep on a few occasions. But those skills are well-known commodities.
What Morrow is working to develop is his leadership, maturity and knowledge of the offense.
“I’ve bought into the program a little bit more,” he said. “I’m more into the playbook, I’m more into trying to get my teammates involved. It’s way more emotion to it.”
Juniors Robert Johnson and Jameon Lewis are two other players who coaches hope will thrive in more prominent roles.
“They’re it, they’re the starters now. So they have to perform and produce,” head coach Dan Mullen said.
The spring is a time for coaches to assess the readiness of Morrow and others, and offensive coordinator Les Koenning noted that it’s way too early to know how well the pieces will come together at receiver.
“But as far as their sense of urgency and wanting to get it, yes, we’ve seen that, because it’s an opportunity to play,” Koenning said.
MSU has other options at receiver, with junior college transfers Jeremey Chappelle and Fred Ross expected to contribute – Chappelle is already on campus. Redshirt freshmen Fred Brown and Brandon Holloway are two others who could break into the rotation.
Morrow said nobody among the receiving group holds assumptions about roles and playing time.
“The way we do it in the meeting room, we say every spot’s up,” Morrow said. “So we go out there, we just compete against each other, motivate each other, try to get the best out of each other every day.”