Dan Mullen has not slept since the regular season ending Egg Bowl and that could be, in part, trying to figure out how to replace seven starters on offense and eight on defense. All jokes aside though, this is what the program that he has been building at Mississippi State has been striving for with a "next man up" approach and trying to build depth by have experience teams of players that have been developed in his systems.
Dak is Back and?
On offense, the Bulldogs lose their leading rusher in Josh Robinson and experienced wideout Jameon Lewis, but the depth of the returners shows how far along in the development cycle of their team that Mullen and company have on the roster. Robinson rushed for over 1,200 rushing yards last season, but nearly 400 of those yards came early in the season against LSU and Kentucky while only 316 yards came in the last six games of the season. As the season went on, Ashton Shumpert emerged as a reliable back and was the only reliable running threat in the Egg Bowl to end the regular season (10 carries for 68 yards, the rest of the team had 37 carries for 95 yards). Along with Shumpert, fellow junior Brandon Holloway and the running threat of Prescott still offer one of the best running attacks in the SEC if the offensive line can gel.
At the receiver positions, leading receiver De'Runnya Wilson returns as a starter, but this might be one of the deepest positions on the roster with experienced receivers returning including Fred Ross, Fred Brown and Joe Morrow all coming back.
Revamped Offensive Front
The big question mark on offense is upfront where first team All-SEC guard Ben Beckwith, Blaine Clausell and four year starter Dillon Day are all gone along with tight end Malcolm Johnson. The 32 combined starts returning places the Bulldogs 118th nationally, but the Bulldogs will not be leaning heavily on youth or junior college players upfront.
First team line, Warren, Malone, Clayborn, Desper, Senior.— Michael Bonner (@MikeBBonner) August 3, 2015
Of the first five offensive linemen from the first day of fall practice, two (Warren and Malone) are seniors while the remainder (Claiborne, Desper and Senior) are all juniors. The Bulldogs did sign a four star junior college offensive tackle in Martinas Rankin, but appear that they will give the returning upperclassmen the first shot.