By definition of the word, the spread offense is predicated upon making sure as many skill position players touch the football.
Even after six different receivers catch a pass and five different players have at least six carries in its 49-7 victory over Memphis, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen still thinks the balance of the Bulldogs offense can be more diverse when No. 22 Auburn comes to Starkville Thursday night.
Senior Leon Berry along with sophomore wide receivers Brandon Heavens, Chad Bumphis and Arceto Clark had 16 of the 20 receptions by the Bulldogs Saturday night but MSU’s second-year head coach was more concerned about the five wide receivers that participated in the game that did not register a catch.
“The receiving corps still needs a little bit more balance even though Brandon, Leon and Chad all had big games,” Mullen said. “I still think we’re a young team. They’re a lot of guys that got some first action out there today and they responded.”
One of those first-timers on the field Saturday was true freshman wide receiver Michael Carr. According to the participation chart, the former West Point High School star and three-star recruit got into the game late but did not touch the football.
Under NCAA rules, Carr can't be redshirted during the 2010 season after playing in Saturday’s game unless a medical issue arises Thursday night and he applies to the NCAA for a hardship waiver. Carr was one of two true freshmen that participated in Saturday game against Memphis along with linebacker Chris Hughes.
“You'll see some guys on special teams out there,” Mullen said before Saturday’s game. “There's some guys in some backup roles. I don't see any of them starting on offense or defense in this game. I do see a couple rotating in special teams or some on offense or some on defense.”
Interestingly Heavens and Bumphis both play the same receiver position on the field meaning those two sophomores will have to split playing time throughout the 2010 season which suits them both just fine so far.
“Chad and I rotate on every play so each guy is fresh,” Heavens said. “I look up to Chad like a leader because everyone else does on the team. We’re like brothers basically, always with each other.”
Heavens had a team-high in catches (five) and yards (112) while the sophomore duo became the first receiving pair to record 100-yard games since Justin Jenkins and McKinley Scott accomplished the feat against Houston in 2003.
“The receivers did a good job getting open,” Mullen said Monday. “I mean some of the throws (Russell) got to make for big plays were wide open.”
Mullen not pleased with kicking game
The only major flaw Mullen found in MSU’s 49-7 victory Saturday was the area he individually controls – special teams.
Mullen specifically pointed to the lack of depth on kickoffs, which allowed Memphis to start with an average starting field position of its own 34-yard-line in the first half.
“I wasn’t pleased with how we were kicking off the ball,” Mullen said after the game Saturday. “We lost containment on some of the coverage which was disappointing as well.”
Mississippi State rotated Sean Brauchle and Derek DePasquale for the eight kickoffs Saturday with DePasquale having the duty for third and fourth kick coming in the first half. Brauchle had a better length average (63.5 yards per kick) than DePasquale by 6 and a half yards Saturday but the senior from Biloxi also missed a 38-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter way wide to the right.
Bulldogs senior punter Heath Hutchins took all four opportunities Saturday and was able down a pair of those punts inside the 20-yard-line.
The intriguing aspect of Saturday’s special teams effort may have been what Mullen hinted at the week before with redshirt freshman LaDarius Perkins, considered one of the fastest players on the MSU roster, being put back deep to receive the kickoff and returning it 26 yards to the 29-yard-line late in the fourth quarter.
MSU allowing staff to leave campus Thursday afternoon
In an attempt to limit the amount of parking and traffic concerns from Thursday night’s game with Auburn, Mississippi State officials released an announcement they hope will clear the campus area minimizing fan concerns.
MSU announced Monday they will be allowing non-critical staff to leave campus at 2 p.m. Thursday in anticipation of the large crowds expected on campus. The university statement did acknowledge that MSU chief of police Georgia Lindley was concerned about the possible traffic congestion and public safety issues had the university not decided to release staff early.
The announcement states all MSU functions, including classes, will operate as normal until 2 p.m., and faculty has the option to continue with classes if they so desire. Mississippi State’s student paper, The Reflector, in a column written by sports editor Bob Carskadon, are encouraging university professors to cancel classes Thursday, which many are already doing.