Mississippi State's Offense is Set. About That Defense ... // SEC 2011

It seems a little bit odd to say that Mississippi State is stacked on offense, but Mississippi State is stacked on offense. The Western Division Bulldogs return nine starters on that side of the ball by Phil Steele's count, including the starter at every single skill position. They might need all those returning starters, given that the defense loses its entire linebacking.

BIGGEST RETURN | RB Vick Ballard
Measured almost any way you want to do it, Ballard was by far the biggest non-quarterback contributor to the Mississippi State offense in 2010. He rang up 20 touchdowns, 19 of them rushing, and churned out 1,074 all-purpose yards. (That led the team on a per-game basis, though not overall.)

Even with a quarterback that shouldered some of the running load -- a lot, given how rarely the Bulldogs utilized the pass last year -- Ballard had 968 rushing yards on 186 carries, good for 5.2 yards per attempt. Even if State does lean on Chris Relf's arm more this year, Ballard will get his carries, and will likely make enough of a difference on the ground to open up even more opportunities in the passing game.

KEY LOSS | LB Chris White
You could go with Derek Sherrod here and make an equally strong case, given his being a first-round draft pick and everything. But for all his plaudits, Sherrod might not have meant as much to the offense as White meant to the defense. The linebacker led the team in tackles (110), tackles for loss (15.5 for a team-leading 51 yards) and sacks (6) while also chipping in a pair of interceptions. And with fellow linebacker K.J. Wright also gone from the roster, White's absence will certainly be missed.

BREAKTHROUGH POSSIBILITY | WR Chad Bumphis
Bumphis' name is not new to anyone who's followed the SEC West, but the team's No. 1 receiver could have a huge year if Relf is allowed to take the air more often. His 44 receptions account for more than a quarter of all the completions for the Bulldogs in 2010, and his 634 receiving yards were also about a fourth of the total. Bumphis has a chance to be only the second wideout in Mississippi State history to have a 1,000-yard season and the first since 1978.

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