Heading into the 2004 season, everybody associated with Mississippi State football knew the players' health would be a major concern.

With so many depth problems at almost every position, a twisted ankle here or a tweaked hamstring there are bound to create a lot of maneuvering for the Bulldog coaches.

Second-year receivers coach Guy Holliday knows the drill all too well."/>

Guy Holliday: MSU Wide Receivers Coach

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/coaches/football/hollidayheadshot.jpg" align="left"> Heading into the 2004 season, everybody associated with Mississippi State football knew the players' health would be a major concern.<P> With so many depth problems at almost every position, a twisted ankle here or a tweaked hamstring there are bound to create a lot of maneuvering for the Bulldog coaches.<P> Second-year receivers coach Guy Holliday knows the drill all too well.

Veteran receiver Ray Ray Bivines has yet to play a down during his senior campaign. Bivines, who may ask for a sixth year of eligibility if his hamstring problem doesn't heal in time, was one of the top returnees for Holliday's group.

And just last weekend against Auburn, another senior, McKinley Scott, suffered an injury, one that's expected to keep Scott out at least one week.

But for Holliday, he is simply working with what's left.

"It definitely presents you challenges," said Holliday. "Everybody has been recruited here because at one point in time, they demonstrated the fact that they were SEC-caliber players. It's kind of like war - you can't worry about the guys left behind but fight with what you have. And that's what we are doing."

Holliday was the lone holdover among assistant coaches from former head coach Jackie Sherrill's staff. And like the maroon and white faithful, he likes what his new coaching mates have brought to the table.

"As with any new staff, the coaches here brought a lot of new energy here and it's been exciting," said Holiday. "And we're just all trying to press forward."

Another slight challenge facing Holliday was the installment of Sylvester Croom's offensive philosophy – the West Coast offense.

However, Holliday was already caught up on the different schemes of the West Coast system, and it hasn't derailed his coaching techniques.

"It really hasn't changed how I teach," said Holliday of the West Coast offense. "We just had to get a new system in place. It was probably a little easier because of my familiarity of the new offense. It was really easy for me as far as relating it to my players."

With Scott and Bivines not available for duty, Holliday has searched among his players to find that all too important go-to receiver. He does like the upside of the Bulldog receivers while still waiting for one of them to emerge as "the guy".

"I think it's exciting," said Holliday of the future. "I think Will Prosser has stepped up and is making plays. Of course, McKinley Scott, we are expecting good things from him when healthy. Jason Husband had a really good game (two touchdowns versus Auburn) and Tee Milons is starting to come along.

"Our biggest problem is we are searching for a true playmaker. You know, somebody who can catch the short ball and take it the distance. We are trying to develop that right now. I think as players get more familiar with the system that their talents will emerge even more."

Holliday also admits the new system hasn't been fully unveiled as of yet. Croom noted during the spring that only about 25-30 percent of the West Coast offense would be contained within the playbook.

And Holliday agrees as well.

"I think the West Coast offense is all about creating matchups," said Holliday. "Right now, we've only scratched the surface of what we plan on doing. So we haven't gotten to all those matchup situations in the different formations.

"Our deal is to learn the basics of it and that will allow us to expand what we're doing and take a step forward. Everybody thinks the West Coast is about short passes but there are deep balls. And the short passes set up the deep ball. We have to be able to run block first and that will help us catch the play-action passes. Again, we're just scratching the surface."

That search will continue off the field as Holliday and the rest of the staff hit the road in search of those coveted playmakers.

The latest recruiting class featured a pair of up-and-coming wideouts in Keon Humphries and special teams performer Jonathan Lowe. However, like Bivines and Scott, Humphries has gotten the injury bug, limiting the Montgomery, Ala., native to just a few plays in the opener versus Tulane.

"Keon is going to be a really good player," said Holliday. "He's really young and then turned his ankle so he probably will wind up being redshirted. I don't think he will be able to play anymore this year. Jonathan is a guy on special teams who is extremely talented. He will help us. But when you deal with freshmen, they have to learn the pace of the game.

"People think because a player is highly recruited (he can play right away). Talent is only a part of this game. Do they understand the speed of the game? Do you understand the offense we're running? Do you understand the defensive coverages? All that takes time to learn."

With only Scott and Bivines (depending on a possible sixth year) listed as seniors, Holliday noted his underclassmen will have the time to learn.

And after that, it's just a matter of time before the Mississippi State receivers, and West Coast offense, really flexes their strengths.

"We expect them all to grow and develop," said Holliday. "And we'll see once we get through this year. After that, we will sit back, look at the talent we have and decide what we're missing and what spots we need to fill in, receiver-wise.

"One thing about our receivers is we have a lot of the same type guys - a lot of possession-type receivers. So we also have to develop some speed. Being in the system a whole year will help them. And that excites me from the standpoint that we can do more and press forward."


Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. Paul, also a sports writer for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, can be reached by email at pjones@cdispatch.com.

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