Mississippi State Bulldogs Spring Practice Preview: 3 Storylines To Watch

    Mississippi State Bulldogs spring practice preview for 2017. Here are three storylines to watch when the Bulldogs hit the field on March 2.

    February 27, 2017

    Mississippi State Bulldogs spring practice preview for 2017. Here are three storylines to watch when the Bulldogs hit the field on March 2.

    It was a struggle of a season for Mississippi State in 2016: an opening loss to South Alabama was followed by 2-5 start. The Bulldogs got it turned around a bit though, winning four of their last six games, including a bowl game that they got into despite a 5-7 record due to their APR score and a lack of bowl eligible teams.

    A 55-20 win over rival Ole Miss in Oxford combined with the bowl win gave Dan Mullen’s team some momentum heading into the offseason. With spring practice now arriving, but the Bulldogs have a lot of work to do and positions to fill if they want to become contenders in the SEC West again.

    Here are three storylines to watch out for as Mississippi State begins spring drills on March 2.

    Mississippi State Bulldogs Spring Practice Storylines

    1. Finding Offense Outside Nick Fitzgerald

    Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald accounted for 66.4% of the entire Bulldogs offense last season, leading them in both passing (2,427 yards) and rushing (1,375 yards) and combing for 37 total touchdowns. He’s back, so that is good news for Mullen and company, but to be better this season, someone else, or a group of people, will have to take the next step and be a key contributor.

    Not helping? The graduation of leading receiver Fred Ross (917 yards, 12 touchdowns).

    So who can be that guy that assists Fitzgerald? Running back Aeris Williams became a threat near the end of last season, including running for 191 yards and two touchdowns in the Egg Bowl victory. Donald Gray, who was second last year in receiving yards behind Ross, will be the go-to receiver for Fitzgerald.

    With just a little help, Fitzgerald could become even more dangerous than he was last season.

    2. Putting The “D” Back In Dogs: Defensive Line

    Mississippi State was not up to par on defense in 2016, allowing 459.1 yards per game – good for No. 110 in the nation – and allowing 31.8 points per outing. Now, the Bulldogs are on their fourth defensive coordinator in as many years, this time Todd Grantham who accepted the job after three years at Louisville.

    Grantham’s defense will take some time for the players to get used to, as he regularly has guys playing different positions in a 3-4 scheme. A.J. Jefferson, Nick James, and Nelson Adams are gone from the defensive front, so spring will be a chance for players such as Jeffrey Simmons, Cory Thomas, and Fletcher Adams (among others) to earn Grantham’s trust and a starting position on an inexperienced front line.

    3. Putting The “D” Back In Dogs: Secondary

    Playing time in the Bulldogs’ secondary is up for grabs, and there are a group of players with some experience ready to grab starting spots. There’s also a new position coach in Ron English.

    Chris Rayford, Jamal Peters, Jamoral Graham and Lashard Durr started at times last season, while Tolando Cleveland is back after an ACL injury kept him out of the 2016 campaign.

    It will take an effort, but the pass defense needs to be a priority for Grantham this spring, as the Bulldogs finished a dismal 120th in the nation last season, allowing 281.5 yards per game through the air.

    MORE: SEC Football Predictions, Storylines For 2017 Season


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