After an 8-4 regular season Mississippi State closed their season with a bowl win over Illinois. Looking ahead to this season, sportsbooks seem to expect a similar outcome. FanDuel Sportsbook currently tags Mississippi State with a 6.5 win total juiced at -115 towards the under. With that said, let’s dive into our Mississippi State football futures, predictions and roster overview.
Mississippi State Football Futures, Roster Overview & Predictions
Unfortunately, Mississippi State underwent seismic shifts within their coaching staff after the loss of Mike Leach. The Bulldogs promoted defensive coordinator Zach Arnett to take over head coach responsibilities. He hired Kevin Barbay as the new offensive coordinator and Matt Brock to the same position on defense. Barbay most recently coordinated the Appalachian State offense in 2022. They passed 44.5% of the time (95th) and ran 73.0 plays per game (41). This offense will certainly look different from the Leach air raid, but Mississippi State ranked 15th in total offense last year, per PFF. Brock was another internal promotion after coaching linebackers for Mississippi State last year. On paper, these coaches have solid credentials, but most lack experience at this level within the SEC.
Quarterback should be a position of strength with multi-year starter Will Rogers returning for his fourth year as the starter. Rogers remains a pure pocket passer, but he completed 412 of 614 passes (67.1%) for 3,955 yards (6.4 YPA), 35 touchdowns, eight interceptions. This was a step back from 2021. In that season, Rogers completed 73.3% of his passes for 4,687 yards, 36 scores, nine interceptions. Ultimately, PFF graded Rogers as their seventh highest passer in the SEC. For depth, Mississippi State added Vanderbilt transfer Mike Wright. Wright offers a completely different skillset after rushing 53 times for 516 yards and five scores last year. He only completed 56.7% of his passes for 6.4 yards per attempt, but the depth remains solid at this position.
With Mississippi State likely to run a more traditional offense, the running position should see more work than past years. Jo’Quavious Marks returns after rushing 115 times for 590 yards, nine scores, and one fumble. The 5-10, 210 pound back also caught 46 passes for 272 yards. The Bulldogs also added Penn State transfer Keyvone Lee in the transfer portal. While Lee lost his spot last year, he rushed for 530 yards on 108 attempts in 2021. At 6-0, 234 pounds, he offers a useful complement to Marks. For depth, Simeon Price returns after 31 rush attempts and 13 catches last year as a rotational piece. Jeffery Pittman also comes in as the top ranked JUCO running back in this class.
The receiving room returns plenty of bodies, but their future deployment remains a question. Rufus Harvey finished second on the team in receiving with 53 catches for 506 yards. The third year player stands 5-10, 165 pounds and played in the slot 97.4% of the time. His 1.40 yards per route ranked tied for 40th in the SEC. Lideatrick Griffin returns after catching 40 balls for 402 yards and four scores. Griffin stands 5-10, 185 pounds and played out wide 98% of the time. The fourth year player ranked 37th in the SEC with 1.52 yards per route.
Fifth leading receiver Jaden Walley returns after catching 34 balls for 348 yards and three scores. Walley stands 6-0, 190 pounds and played in the slot 96.1% of the time. Now entering his fourth season, Walley’s 1.29 yards per route ranked 48th in the SEC. Sixth leading receiver, Justin Robinson makes his return after catching 30 balls for 326 yards and 3 scores. At 6-4, 220 pounds, Robinson played out wide 98.8% of the time. Now entering his fourth season, Robinson’s 1.40 yards per route ranked tied for 40th in the SEC. Zavion Thomas and Jordan Mosley have received some praise as depth pieces. FCS receiver Freddie Roberson transferred into the program from Eastern Washington as well.
In addition to their returning receiver production, Mississippi State added two tight ends in the transfer portal. Geor’Quarius Spivey comes over from TCU and Ryland Goede from Georgia. Spivey spent his first thee seasons with Mississippi State before a short stay with TCU. He is 6-5, 245 pounds and caught 11 balls for 136 yards and one score last year .Goede was a four star prospect in the 2019 class and the 235th overall player in that class. He has 110 total snaps, but he should see an easier path to playing time.
Mississippi State lost just one offensive lineman in center LaQuinston Sharp. From left to right, Kwatrivous Johnson returns at left tackle. He only played 383 snaps last year, but he was a full time starter in 2021. Nick Jones also returns after 933 snaps last year. He started the year at left guard and then moved out to tackle later in the season. He provides solid versatility for this offensive line.
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Steven Losoya returns for his third season as a full time starter. He mostly played guard last year, but he played a little bit of center when needed as well. He should be the favorite to fill the void left by Sharp. The right guard position should be manned by Cole Smith. He played 946 snaps last year and this will be his fourth season as a starter. Finally, Kameron Jones (61.3) returns at right tackle after 783 snaps. This will be his fourth season as a starter. Overall, this is one of the most experienced offensive lines in the SEC, but they will be undergoing a massive schematic change.
On defense, Mississippi State ranked 62nd overall in 2022. This included the 76th ranked run defense, 112th ranked pass rush, and 16th ranked pass coverage. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs lost almost all of their elite secondary without clear replacements. Decamerion Richardson and Shawn Preston return at corner and safety after 773 snaps and 344 snaps. Richardson easily provides the most experience, allowing 38 catches for 454 yards into his coverage.
The rest of the group will be pieced together by 2022 rotational pieces Esaias Furdge, Corey Ellington, and Marcus Banks. Ellington started in Mississippi State’s bowl last year, but the rest of the projected starters come from spring practice reports. Mississippi State did add four transfer in their secondary, including Raydarious Jones (LSU), Khamauri Rogers (Miami), Ja’Kobi Albert (Kentucky), and Chris Keys (Indiana) to push in the incumbent group.
The front seven should be a little more experienced, but questions still remain. Both linebackers in Jett Johnson and Nathaniel Watson return after both played over 700 snaps in 2022. The edge group lost both starters, leaving Jordan Davis and JP Purvis to step up. Davis played 233 snaps and Purvis logged 121. Neither played enough to confidently project moving forward, but Mississippi State did not address this position in the portal.
The interior lost Cameron Young, but Nathan Pickering returned after 482 snaps in 2022. Fortunately, Jaden Cumedy also played well on a limited 247 snap sample last year. Still, he generated ten quarterback pressures on that limited work. Ultimately, this group could use some work, but a defensive minded head coach could get the most out of them.
As for scheduling, Mississippi State will always have their work cut out for them in the SEC West. The team travels to Arkansas, Auburn, and Texas A&M within their division, but they only play four road games all year. They draw South Carolina and Kentucky from the East, along with Southeastern Louisiana, Arizona, Western Michigan, and Southern Miss in their non-conference. They should be favored in all four non-conference games, but Arizona could be closer than some expect.
Mississippi State should be favored in somewhere around five games this year. They have better odds to win the SEC than South Carolina (+9500), Arkansas (+9500), and Kentucky (+10000). However, it would not be surprising to see them drop one of those games either. Ultimately, +7500 to win the SEC is a bit too rich, but under 6.5 wins at -115 juice makes sense. Mississippi State will be an underdog in at least four games. From there, they will have tight spreads against Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, and South Carolina. Three of those games are on the road. With so much turnover on the staff and the roster, hitting the under here makes sense.