By John Luke McCord –
Many fans familiar with the football landscape around the SEC questioned the lack of southern ties attached to Joe Moorhead when Mississippi State AD John Cohen hired him last November. Moorhead, who holds a Hour Glass head coach stamp of 3(just a tick under national average), has won over Bulldog fans due to his humble, but confident nature and his offensive track record. Not to mention his hiring of three men who were head coaches last season in Mark Hudspeth (ULL), Andrew Breiner (Fordham) and Joey Jones (South Alabama).
No one, however, is questioning the lack of returning talent on the Mississippi State roster. Without star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, and most of their staff, the Bulldogs defeated 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals in the 2017 TaxSlayer bowl. Mississippi State has a three-year Hour Glass recruiting stamp of 79.74, good enough for ninth in the SEC. However, much of that talent also combines experience and great development, which is why State comes in fifth in the SEC with an Hour Glass power ranking stamp of 97.5.
Let’s start with the offensive side of the ball, where the dogs will return a number of playmaking options. Last season Aeris Williams rushed for 1,107 yards and toted the rock 236 times. Nick Fitzgerald threw for 1,782 yards and 15 touchdowns, and ran for another 984 yards and 14 scores, all while showing potential to be even better. Though he completed just 55% of his passes in 2017, and had his season come to an end with a gruesome ankle injury in the first quarter of the Egg bowl, Fitzgerald is a likely candidate to blossom in Moorhead’s high-flying offense. Another candidate is Kylin Hill, who showed flashes of being a physical and explosive SEC back as a freshman last season, who could be carry it and catch it in the new scheme.
Let’s not forget Malik Dear is expected to return this year after a season off due to injury. He, along with Nick Gibson, Keith Mixon and others will also be versatile options alongside the big three previously mentioned. The receiving group returns the promise of Deddrick Thomas, and then mostly potential in Reggie Todd, Jamal Couch, Farrod Green and others. But the 2018 signing class could provide some help as the staff was able to ink four-stars Malik Heath (top in-state player) and Devonta “Whop” Jason. Four-star athlete Marcus Murphy should also see time on offense.