It's not exactly a make or break year for Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen.
Except, well, it sort of is.
After starting the 2012 season 7-0, the Bulldogs sputtered down the stretch, losing five of their last six games culminating with a 34-20 loss to Northwestern in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl.
The program is 5-21 versus teams that finish the season with eight or more wins since 2009. Simply put, Mullen has raised the floor in Starkville but hasn't had a major impact on the ceiling. At some point that's going to have to change.
The Bulldogs kick off spring practice Thursday, and one of the top questions facing the team is the noticeable absence of an established downfield threat in the passing game.
Gone are Chad Bumphis, Arceto Clark and Chris Smith, Mississippi State's three leading receivers from the 2012 squad.
Who's going to step in?
The spring depth chart was released prior to the opening of camp and with it saw sophomore Joe Morrow and juniors Robert Johnson and Jameon Lewis atop the depth chart at the three wide receiver positions.
Have you heard of them? No?
Well that may change in the near future, because each player possesses particular skills that fit well into Mullen's scheme.
Johnson caught 17 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns a year ago and is the most experienced player of the group. The 6'1", 220-pounder has the size to be a fantastic possession receiver but the speed to keep opposing cornerbacks honest.
Lewis is one of those guys that you don't want to get too close to as a defensive back, because he's quick enough to scoot right by. The 5'9", 185-pounder burst onto the scene with four catches for 113 yards and a touchdown in Mississippi State's opener versus Memphis in 2011 but has been MIA since.
Mullen likes to get the ball in the hands of playmakers in space and Lewis absolutely can be one of those playmakers—think "Percy Harvin Light."
Morrow is another guy that can really make an impact in Mullen's offense. At 6'4", 210 pounds, Morrow has the ability to out-jump most opposing defensive backs. He was one of the stars of spring last year but didn't see the field that much in the fall.
Behind the talented trio of presumed starters is a loaded group of wide receivers that's only going to swell this summer.
Junior college transfer Jeremy Chappelle enrolled early and will be joined in the battle for playing time by Michael Carr. Five or possibly even six more wide receivers are on their way this summer, which means that spring is the time to shine for players looking to make a positive impression on the coaching staff.
It should be an interesting spring in Starkville and watching how the wide receivers sort themselves out will be a big reason why.