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SEC Preview: Mississippi State
This story originally published on
Posted Jun 14, 2009
Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen was hired as Mississippi State’s 32nd head football coach Dec. 11, nearly a month before Florida added a second national title to the resume that helped Mullen land the Bulldog head job. But adding another championship ring to his collection didn’t do a thing to change the ...
... reality the 37-year old Mullen faces as he takes over in Starkville--- there is no tougher place to win on a consistent basis in the SEC than at
spent five years trying to develop the Bulldogs into SEC title contenders, and although it seemed like the 2007 season might be a breakthrough with an 8-5 record after a win in the Liberty Bowl, a 4-8 record in 2008, including a 45-0 loss to archrival
, finished off a mark of 21-38 overall and 10-30 in the SEC that led to Croom’s resignation.
Mullen brings a reputation as an offensive whiz to Starkville, hoping to create the type of excitement that will improve recruiting and instill some fear in opposing defenses when they have to take on what in the past has been a low-scoring, even boring, Mississippi State offensive unit.
It all starts at quarterback, where Mullen should have his biggest coaching impact after tutoring former No. 1 NFL draft choice
and Heisman Trophy winner
. Senior Tyler Lee and sophomore Chris Reif both seemed to improve dramatically throughout Mullen’s inaugural spring practice sessions, with Lee leading the Maroon to a victory in the spring game by completing 19-of-33 passes for 251 yards while Relf hit 13-of-26 passes for 195 yards in the contest.
Despite improvement at quarterback, the Bulldogs will still be relying heavily on senior tailback
to be a key factor in any offensive upgrade in 2009. Dixon is already the school’s career leader in rushing attempts (645) and rushing touchdowns (30) and his 2,585 career rushing yards leave him only 627 away from surpassing
as the school’s alltime rushing yardage leader.
The change to the spread offense that Mullen brought with him from Florida was most obvious in the passing game, where
, O’Neal Wilder and
all figure to get plenty of chances to catch passes from Lee and Reif in the fall. McRae, who suffered a broken leg in the 2008 finale against Ole Miss and was held out of contact this spring, caught 51 passes last season and should benefit greatly from the new offense.
On the defensive side, linebacker
is the leader of a unit that was stingy at times, but was unable to hold up throughout the season because of the weak offensive output that generated little yardage and only 15 points per game. Wright had 72 tackles, including four sacks, in 2008 and should be helped up front by the addition of juco defensive linemen
The kicking game also got an infusion of juco talent with
, who kicked 57-yard field goals in two different spring scrimmages and punter
nailing down the starting positions.
How quickly can Mullen change the culture of mediocrity that has engulfed Mississippi State for so long? That will be the key to success both in recruiting and on the field. But there is no question that Mullen’s hiring generated the type of enthusiasm that should give an immediate boost to the perception that the Bulldogs will be an offensive force, if not this season, certainly in the near future.
SEC Preview: Auburn
Jun 16, 2009
SEC Preview: Arkansas
Jun 18, 2009
SEC Preview: LSU
Jul 5, 2009
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