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Spring Check-In: Mississippi State

For Whom the Cowbell Tolls editor Ethan Lee gives us the skinny on the Bulldogs’ spring practice.

For Whom the Cowbell Tolls

1. State is coming off a bit of a rebuilding year -- what was the general mood around the program this spring?

From what I've seen, it looks like everyone is optimistic. That's the general feel that I get from the atmosphere. A good recruiting class, along with key returning players, and finally the addition of Todd Grantham really has things looking up for the football program this spring. Last year was far from perfect and I think the team would like to not only build upon the success in November but also prove that they're worthy of respect from some of the better teams in the conference.

2. What are some of the questions or concerns for the Bulldogs moving forward now through the rest of the offseason?

I'm not sure what questions others are asking, but something I'm intrigued in is finding another running back to help carry the load for Fitzgerald. The Bulldogs have a wealth of depth at the position and it's pretty important to keep Fitzgerald from getting his brains bashed in.

When it comes to concerns, I'm concerned about finding replacements for Fred Ross and Richie Brown. They've both been phenomenal for the Bulldogs for the past few years and have helped carry Mississippi State at their respective positions. It's hard to imagine a receiver that's currently on the roster repeating what Ross has done throughout his career and Brown has been a great leader for the defense.

3. Nick Fitzgerald broke out as a redshirt sophomore. Is there confidence he's ready to become one of the SEC's best overall quarterbacks?

I firmly believe that he's capable of being one of the three best quarterbacks in the SEC. Last season, he was at the top in total production and that was without playing more than a couple of series against South Alabama at the beginning of the year. He had plenty of ups and downs, but he hit his stride in November and it really feels like he can build upon that next year. Obviously, there some things he clearly needs to work on when it comes to passing. But, given that he's only been playing quarterback for a handful of years, that's something I'm more than willing to look past given his potential and athleticism.

4. How's the transition going on defense with new coordinator Todd Grantham?

First and foremost, I feel like I should address the fact that I'm actually looking forward to seeing the Bulldogs play defense. For the first time in quite a while, I'm stoked to watch a Mississippi State defense on the field. The Peter Sirmon experience was full of despair and heartbreak and a metric ton of missed tackles. It feels as if a burden has been lifted and a wound has been bandaged now that we have Todd Grantham.

Now to answer your question. It looks like the transition is going pretty well. The defense was the bright spot of the spring game and caused a boat load of turnovers, including picking off Fitzgerald four times (which, you know, insert obligatory joke about Fitzgerald's accuracy that makes me cry while also making me laugh here). The intensity seems to be ramped up and the defense doesn't look lost. Now, that may have been different had the defense had to have truly accounted for Fitzgerald's feet the way that most defenses will this season. But, even with the inherent limitations that spring games present, the defense really shined during the spring game.

5. I feel like I ask this every year, but how's the perception of Dan Mullen in Starkville? A season that from a record standpoint was a bit of a step back, followed by more talk of moving to other jobs. Is he on good footing at State, or is there maybe some talk that both parties could move on eventually?

During the offseason, Dan received another extension. I feel like that should be the end of the rumors, but of course not. Because this is Dan Mullen we're talking about and rumors about him leaving Mississippi State are as sure of a thing as death and taxes. As for if he'll actually leave, I don't think he'll be leaving at the end of this season. It feels as if he's invested in the program and the university for the long run. I mean, he keeps reminding people that Starkville is home for him and his family.

Plus, he's got a wealth of talent to work with for the future and a quarterback right now that could potentially, at least in terms of statistics, surpass Dak Prescott. And behind him, there's Keytaon Thompson waiting for his opportunity. Add in the fact that it looks like a certain in-state rival is about to collapse and he'll have a great opportunity to dominate both the rivalry and the recruiting in state (which might help him compete more intensely against those SEC teams outside of the state) and I can't see him having much incentive to really leave from that aspect.

So, while it is possible that Dan will leave, John Cohen won't be firing him because of the success Mullen has had and I don't see him pulling a Petrino. Eventually, yeah, Dan will probably leave. But, I just don't see it happening right now.