It’s going to be weird watching Mississippi State football and not seeing Dak Prescott. Over the last three or four years, Prescott had become synonymous with Mississippi State, almost more so than the cowbells. He was the best player they’d ever had. He carried them to four straight bowl games and a 10-win season that lead to an appearance in the Orange Bowl. He left Mississippi State having passed for almost 10,000 yards and rushed for almost 3,000. He threw for 70 TD’s against only 22 INT’s. Prescott was the type of player who is irreplaceable. Now the task for Dan Mullen is to find a way to offset the loss of Prescott and keep Mississippi State relevant in the meat grinder that is the SEC West.
While trying to figure out who is going to be the starting QB going forward it’s not the only question mark on the offensive side of the ball for the Bulldogs, as Prescott was not only the leading passer but the leading rusher as well. Not only is Prescott gone, but the second best receiver from last year, De’Runnya Wilson is also gone. Brandon Holloway and Ashton Shumpert are the two leading returning rushers from last year, having rushed for 413 yards and 228 yards respectively. One cause for concern is that they only have 1 rushing touchdown between the two of them. At the QB spot, Nick Fitzgerald got the most reps behind Prescott last year, going 11 of 14 for 235 yards and 3 TD’s. Those are good numbers for sure, but it’s a very small sample size and those were passes thrown against weak defenses in games that were all but over. Who Fitzgerald is throwing the ball to is a big question mark with Wilson being gone. Luckily for the Bulldogs, the top receiving target from last year is coming back. Fred Ross had 88 catches for 1,007 yards and 5 TD’s last year, and he will be heavily relied upon this year.
Mississippi State is now on its third defensive coordinator in three seasons. Last year Manny Diaz replaced Geoff Collins (who in an ironic twist of fate had replaced Diaz after he left State for Texas). Diaz bolted for Miami and Mark Richt during the offseason and so the new defensive coordinator is Peter Sirmon. Sirmon had a short career in the NFL, playing six seasons as a LB for the Tennessee Titans. State is his first defensive coordinator job, having most recently been the LB’s coach at USC. He does have several talented guys to work with. AJ Jefferson on the defensive line, Richie Brown at LB and Brandon Bryant at defensive back are all guys who the Mississippi State coaches feel can have all-SEC type seasons.
2014 may have been Mississippi State’s best chance at winning an SEC title. Before that season and since it’s been mainly about treading water and staying decent. Looking at their schedule for this year, there are at least five sure wins. There are also what appear to be three sure losses. Most importantly, there are four other games that are toss ups that could conceivably go either way. So it looks like another 7-5 or 8-4 type season in Starkville.
2016 Mississippi State Schedule
9/3 – Mississippi State vs. South Alabama – Davis Wade Stadium
9/10 – Mississippi State vs. South Carolina – Davis Wade Stadium
9/17 – Mississippi State @ LSU – Tiger Stadium
9/24 – Mississippi State @ UMass – Gillette Stadium
10/8 – Mississippi State vs. Auburn – Davis Wade Stadium
10/14 – Mississippi State @ BYU – LaVell Edwards Stadium
10/22 – Mississippi State @ Kentucky – Commonwealth Stadium
10/29 – Mississippi State vs. Samford – Davis Wade Stadium
11/5 – Mississippi State vs. Texas A&M – Davis Wade Stadium
11/12 – Mississippi State @ Alabama – Bryant-Denny Stadium
11/19 – Mississippi State vs. Arkansas – Davis Wade Stadium
11/26 – Mississippi State @ Ole Miss – Vaught-Hemingway Stadium