Mississippi State is the first No.1 team in the inaugural College Football Playoff Committee poll. It may be improbable but it makes perfect sense if you understand the storm that brought the team together.
As Christian Holmes darted down the field, returning a Kentucky onside kick, I came to a realization: He’s not supposed to be on the field, nevertheless clinching the game with a sensational run.
Another thing I realized: There are several Christian Holmes’ on Mississippi State’s roster and coaching staff–players and coaches who aren’t supposed to be in Starkville contributing to a national contender.
Three elements have made up a perfect storm for the Bulldogs: the shouldn’t have been here, the overlooked and the should have been somewhere else.
The Shouldn’t Have Been Here
Christian Holmes: Holmes, if the off-season rumors had come true, was expected to move on after graduating college. Even if he returned, he was expected to be third-string behind Dezmond Harris, who had an impressive spring. He did come back, though. He beat out Harris and has become a major contributor–ranking third on the team in tackles (34).
Will Redmond: If things had shaken out the wrong way, Redmond wouldn’t have been eligible. But he was cleared, albeit with the cost of a year and a half of eligibility. He’s now emerged as the Bulldogs top one-on-one cornerback.
Nick James: James had one foot out the door after a true freshmen season which saw him struggle with conditioning issues and in the classroom. He had to shape up or ship out. Well, he shaped up literally and figuratively. He lost weight and bought into the team concept. After splitting time early in the season with Curtis Virges, James has solidified himself as the one-technique, defensive tackle on the 1B defense.
Taveze Calhoun: Calhoun might not have even got recruited if Quay Evans wasn’t his teammate. Harsh but real truth. He was viewed as package-deal player–helping to secure Evans commitment. Evans is off the roster and Calhoun has become one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC.
De’Runnya Wilson: Wilson would be playing for Alabama if they offered. He grew up an Alabama fan. The only reason he’s at MSU is because he couldn’t wear the Auburn colors due to allegiance to Alabama.
Dak Prescott: Prescott was initially overlooked by LSU–as they only recruited him as an athlete. LSU did eventually recruit him as a quarterback but only after Dan Mullen had secured his commitment. The rest as they say is history.
Josh Robinson: LSU wanted Terrance McGee, Robinson’s high school teammate, but not him. Robinson grew up wanting to wear the purple and gold. He settled for torching them for 197 yards on 16 carries. Les Miles has been blessed with some talented running backs, but I think he’ll forever regret not recruiting Robinson.
Jameon Lewis: Although Lewis was a stud high school quarterback/athlete, he was only recruited locally. He had to bide his time behind Chad Bumphis. But he finally got his shot last season and shined. Once he is full strength, the electric slot receiver will bolster an already deep receiving core.
Blaine Clausell: Clausell was overlooked by his home-state schools–Auburn and Alabama. Those schools lost out on a talented linemen and Mississippi State gained a three-year starter.
Malcolm Johnson: Johnson is the classic tweener prospect that Alabama and Auburn didn’t give a second look. Coach Mullen recruited him and converted him from a big receiver into a hybrid tight end and key cog in their offensive machine.
The Should Have Been Somewhere Else
Billy Gonzales: Truth be told, Gonzales should be at a more elite program with his resume. Mississippi State,in a literal sense, is a step down from Florida. He should be somewhere else. But he’s at Mississippi State. The work he’s done with the Bulldog receiving core is top notch–especially with De’Runnya Wilson, who’s developed into one of the better receivers in the SEC.
Geoff Collins: Collins is an up-and-comer who could have jumped at a mid-Major coaching job this past off-season or taken an offer from a bigger school. He decided to stay after his salary was raised and has spearheaded “Psycho Defense.”
Dan Mullen: Mullen could have left and maybe should have been fired at different points. He’s stuck around and was able to see his plan through. He’s set up for long-term success and a huge raise. It remains to be seen if he’ll get that raise from Mississippi State or someone else. Bulldog fans should just enjoy this season and see how the ball bounces.
The Bulldogs are a hungry team that’s resilient and built for adversity. No one should be surprised that their having success. When a team is filled with overlooked players and ambitious coaches, the end result is a perfect storm.
J.Short’s Hot Takes
- Dak is rising up the draft boards. But at this stage of his development, he would benefit greatly from another year in college. His long ball accuracy still needs work—as he throws the ball too far or too short most of the time. Also, the red zone play where he locked onto De’Runnya Wilson, instead of throwing to an open Robert Johnson is another area of improvement that needs to be made.
Is he ready for the NFL? Not in my opinion.
- Fred Brown and Fred Ross deserve some praise for consistently performing in a reserve role. Brown has 210 yards on the season and Ross 158. Combined they have 368 with three touchdowns, which would be best on the team if they were one player. You can’t ask for more from reserves. I see ya young bucks. Keep grindin.
- Chris Jones hasn’t answered my challenge. He’s been ineffective the past two games. He was moved outside against Kentucky and didn’t record a tackle. Inexcusable.
- Salute to Kaleb Eulls. He got named defensive linemen of the week after a five tackle, two sack performance. It looks as though he’s finally living up to that four-star rating.
- The Mississippi State pass defense continues to disappoint. But I do believe the real problem is at the safety position. The Bulldog cornerbacks are making plays. The safeties aren’t, though. Kivon Coman’s four combined four pass break ups and deflections lead the group, which is a testament to how few plays on the ball they are making. At this point, the coaching staff needs to focus on the players who make the most plays in the passing game and sit the rest. It’s a tough decision that has to be made.
- MSU’s pass defense may be pourous. Their pass rush is not. The Bulldogs are tied for sixth in the nation with 28 sacks on the season. They’re doing their job. The back end just needs to do theirs.
- I normally salute MSU’s players. But I have to salute Kentucky for a great effort. In particular, I want to salute Patrick Towles, who had 466 total yards with four combined touchdowns.
Dak Prescott is getting pushed as the Heisman contender for Mississippi State. But I think another Bulldog deserves consideration: Josh Robinson.
Look at the numbers: 887 yards and ten touchdowns on the season.
Also, when the Bulldogs have needed him to impose his will on the opposing team, he’s done so in impressive fashion. He even has the Heisman moments. The two great runs he had against Kentucky will go down as two of the greatest runs in Mississippi State history.
J.Rob for Heisman!!!
Jeremiah Short, Peach State College Sports Contributor
Catch me on the “SportsKrib” on Wednesday’s 8-9 Central and Thursday’s 8-10 Central. Follow me on social media @DaRealJShort or check out my facebook page JShortJournalist or my Google Plus page J.Short- Journalist.