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Odds and ends with Mississippi State

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Now that Mississippi State's first practice of the spring is in the books, a couple of thoughts:

  • One of the keys for the Bulldogs on defense will clearly be what kind of impact junior college newcomer Pernell McPhee can make at tackle. The early returns are promising. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound McPhee appears to be in great shape and has the tools to give Mississippi State the kind of inside push it's been missing at tackle the last few years. He played end at Itawamba (Miss.) Community College and collected 33 sacks during his two seasons there. If McPhee turns out to be what the Mississippi State coaches think he is, it's really going to help everybody around him.

  • While Tyson Lee is the favorite to win the starting quarterback job, he's smart enough to realize that the real race might not begin until heralded signee Tyler Russell of Meridian, Miss., gets on campus this summer. Lee isn't taking anything for granted and knows he needs to be an efficient manager of the offense this spring.

  • An influx of freshman receivers will arrive this summer, but a guy to watch next fall will be redshirt freshman O'Neal Wilder. He missed last season with a knee injury and will do as much as the knee will allow him this spring. The thing Wilder gives this offense is what Florida had so much of last season -- game-breaking speed. Plus, he's a big target at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds.

  • Having trimmed down to 235 pounds, running back Anthony Dixon is moving as well and looks as good as he did two years ago when he rushed for 1,066 yards. Even though Dan Mullen is installing the spread, Dixon will be the centerpiece of this offense.