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Spring Check-In: Mississippi State

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For Whom the Cowbell Tolls’ Collin Wilmes is here to give us some insight on how spring practice went in Starkville.

Arkansas v Mississippi State Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

1. Overall, how would you say spring practice went for Mississippi State?

The spring game was a little different from what you would normally see in a spring game. It was more situational-based and 7-on-7 type drills. I like it because it puts guys in situations where they have to be quick to react and it shows the guys who might be more prepared for big-time situations.

2. Big things were expected on offense last year with Joe Moorhead’s reputation, but it didn’t really develop. Any sign that might take a step forward this year with a new quarterback?

Nick Fitzgerald was a tremendous athlete, but a lot of the fans became frustrated with his inconsistency when passing the ball, which is understandable. There were times when he looked fantastic and then there were times when he just didn’t look good passing the ball. I think any time there’s a new QB at the helm there’s a sense of optimism. I fully expect Keytaon Thompson to be the starter. I think there’s definitely a chance this year’s offense can be even better than last year because Thompson has athleticism like Fitzgerald and I believe he’s even faster than Fitzgerald. There’s no question this team will be able to run the ball, this year will be another year where we’re hoping for consistency in the passing game. Could Thompson be that guy? Maybe. I think you go back to TaxSlayer Bowl where Thompson played toe-to-toe with a former Heisman Trophy winner in Lamar Jackson and ended up winning the game. That’s the guy MSU fans want to see.

3. Any other playmakers emerge on offense?

Kylin Hill is a guy who I think will take the SEC by storm, and then you add in a guy like Nick Gibson who has the skill, being a former four-star recruit, I think the Bulldogs are set as far as running the ball. Osirus Mitchell could take a step forward because I’d say wide receiver is a position that is still a work in progress. He’s big receiver and he can make those contested catches on the outside. I also expect Stephen Guidry to take a step forward. There was a lot of optimism about him last year and the consistency just wasn’t there. With the position being so open those are two guys to keep an eye on.

4. State has lost some big names from last year’s loaded defense, but still returns several veterans. Do you think that area takes a step back this year?

MSU, in my opinion, had the best defensive line in the SEC last year, so when you lose the amount of talent MSU lost (Sweat, Simmons, Green, Abrams), you’re going to take a slight step back. However, there’s still tons of talent on this defense to keep MSU in some close games with some very good teams. Defensive tackle is probably the weakest position right now, but I like incoming freshman Nathan Pickering. I also think Kendell Jones will be able to make some plays at the position. Chauncey Rivers should be able to make plays on the edge. Bulldogs also have a couple All-SEC players coming back in cornerback Cameron Dantzler and linebacker Erroll Thompson, so I think there’s a lot of talent that was lost, but still a lot of talent to make this defense very good.

5. What is fan opinion on Moorhead after year one? He came in with some big expectations, and didn’t quite meet them, although 8-5 is still a solid start. What are the expectations for 2019?

I think there’s some fan frustration after year one. Like you said, there was some sky-high expectations and the offense fell short. They were promised this extremely fast-paced, high-scoring offense and Moorhead just didn’t meet the fans’ expectations. It was a very good first year, but in the eyes of the fans, MSU needs to take a big step forward this year. Realistically, I expect MSU to be an eight or nine-win team this year. The Bulldogs will be able to run the ball and play tough defense. They’ll beat the teams they should, and I think the defense will keep them in some close games with the LSUs and Alabamas of the SEC.