Mississippi State Football: Monday Morning Unit Grades from the Kennel Club
Coming into this past weekend's game with Auburn, the big question was could Dan Mullen actually beat anyone in the West not named Mississippi?
After Saturday's game, which saw the Bulldogs dominate the Tigers by the tune of 28-10, in just about every phase of the game, the question now becomes just how many games in the West will these Bulldogs win this year?
With Arkansas losing to Louisiana Monroe and Texas A&M looking very average, things look very promising for Dan Mullen's team. But, lets not get ahead of ourselves. Before we move forward, let's take one more look at this weekend's game with Auburn as we present the Monday morning Kennel Club rankings, ranking every unit on the Mississippi State football team.
Grading the Quarterbacks
The State of Mississippi is not known for producing legitimate SEC-starting quarterbacks that are effective. Over the last 10-15 years, only Jason Campbell's time at Auburn and Romaro Miller at Mississippi in the late 1990s can be called a success and a "win" for Mississippi high school quarterbacks.
Many hope Mississippi State's Tyler Russell, who is a Meridian, Miss. native, can change the stigma placed on Mississippi-raised quarterbacks. Russell has gotten off to a great start in the 2012 season and was crisp this past Saturday.
The rising junior hit right at 69 percent of his passes going 20-29 and piling up a modest 222 yards and three touchdowns. The big thing for Russell is that he was patient, made great decisions and has yet to throw an interception in the 2012 season.
If he continues at this pace, he will break most, if not all, Mississippi State single-season records for a passing quarterback.
Dak Prescott only got two carries from behind center, but one was big in picking up a first down while doing his best Tim Tebow.
The Kennel Grade: A-
Grading the Running Backs
Coming into this season, the big question at running back was who would replace Vick Ballard as the feature back of this club. That answer still may be a bit hazy, but if this past Saturday is any indication, the Bulldogs are fine using the "committee" approach.
Junior LaDarius Perkins led "the committee," grabbing 83 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. He also grabbed three passes for 17 yards.
The redshirt freshmen combo of Josh Robinson and Derek Milton combined for 12 carries and 60 yards and sophomore Nick Griffin added 21 yards on two carries.
As a unit, "the committee" piled up 166 yards on 36 carries, which was good for a 4.6 yards-per-carry average. If this unit can provide this type of output weekly, then that will just make things that much easier for Tyler Russell.
The Kennel Grade: B+
Grading the Wide Receivers
With five senior receivers and a wealth of young talent, Dan Mullen expected a lot from his receivers coming into the 2012 season.
Minus a few drops, this unit has lived up to their head coach's expectations.
This past weekend, nine Bulldogs caught passes as Mississippi State showed the depth they have been bragging on in the preseason. Led by sixth-year senior tight end Marcus Green (four catches for 52 yards and two scores) and senior Chad Bumphis (3-47 and one TD), this unit had an 11.1-yard average per catch, which would make any coach happy.
The Kennel Grade: A-
Grading the Offensive Line
With two new starting tackles coming into the season, many wondered just how effective this unit would be for the Bulldogs.
Minus a few sacks given up to the Auburn Tigers, this unit did an admirable job protecting Tyler Russell from Auburn's speedy defensive ends and paved the way for the running backs as they averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
With Blaine Clausell, JUCO transfer Charles Siddoway and Damien Robinson, the Bulldogs hope to continue to improve blocking off the edges. The middle of this unit, with center Dillon Day and guards Gabe Jackson and Tobias Smith, seems to be set.
With six of the 10 players listed on the depth chart being a sophomore or younger, this unit can only get better as the year goes forward.
The Kennel Grade: B
Grading the Defensive Line
This unit is one of the deepest, if not the deepest, on the team. Led by Josh Boyd and Denico Autry, the defensive line kept pressure on Auburn quarterback Kiehl Frazier all day long as Frazier only had minus-two yards passing in the first half.
You can credit this unit with helping create all three of Frazier's interceptions he threw and this unit gave up only 91 yards rushing on 39 carries. Do the math on that and that is only a 2.3 yard-per-carry average. Defensive coordinator Chris Wilson will take that all day long.
The Kennel Grade: A+
Grading the Linebackers
Going into the 2011 season, Mississippi State had missed on what was thought to be some really good linebacker candidates for the future. Many people questioned the linebacker depth on this team and some asked if the Bulldogs even have enough able bodies at the position.
Heading into Week 3 of the 2012 season, those questions have long been answered. With senior Cam Lawrence, along with Deontae Skinner, Benardick McKinney, Ferlando Bohanna and Matthew Wells roaming around, this unit has become one of the deeper and definitely more athletic groups.
This group, along with the defensive line, kept the Auburn running game in check and also was able to answer the call in defending the Auburn short-passing game led by fullback/tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen.
The Kennel Grade: B+
Grading the Defensive Backs
Mississippi Sate defensive back coach Melvin Smith has coached some fantastic secondaries during his time as a football coach. From guys like Fred Smoot to Robert Bean and more, Smith has been around and coached some very talented players.
It is still very early, but I bet Smith would tell you that this 2012 Bulldog secondary is right up there with some of the best he has coached.
Led by All-American corner Jonathan Banks, the Bulldogs picked off Kiehl Frazier three times and blanketed the Auburn receivers all day this past Saturday. All four players in Banks, Darius Slay, Corey Broomfield and Nickoe Whitley are fast, athletic and have a nose for the football, not to mention they enjoy hitting you.
The Kennel Grade: A+
Grading the Special Teams
Mississippi State's Dan Mullen prides himself in being the coach over the special teams units, much like a lot of head coaches do. After Saturday's performance on special teams, Mullen may want to spend a little more time on this unit.
This unit was very porous on a day that saw freshman kicker Devon Bell miss two very makeable field goals and Auburn return the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown.
Just a very sloppy day overall for this unit. It is cause for concern because depending on the opponent and weekend, this type of performance from your special teams units could get you beat.
The Kennel Grade: F
Final Thoughts and Grade
Dan Mullen and the Mississippi State family have to be ecstatic over Saturday's win verses the Auburn Tigers. Yes, people will now start the ole "Auburn isn't any good this year" rant, but if that is the case, Mississippi State cannot help that.
Mullen finally beat someone in the Western Division not called a directional school ("TSUN") by him and is 2-0 in this very young season.
Mullen and his staff have shown to be very relentless recruiters and player developers. Saturday's victory showed a team full of 3-star players flat out play and hustle a team full of 4- and 5-star guys.
The Final Kennel Grade: B+