Carroll's development key for Bulldogs

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- I won't throw out any predictions before I hit the road from Mississippi State.

But this I will say: These guys believe.

And not that they can get back to eight wins and play in another bowl game, but that they can win the Western Division championship and play for an SEC title.

Senior free safety Derek Pegues goes back to the conversation he had with Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom the day Pegues, a highly recruited player, committed to the Bulldogs four years ago. Croom promised him during that phone call that he would win an SEC title while he was at Mississippi State.

Well, this is Pegues' last shot.

"I feel we have all the tools to get there," said Pegues, an All-SEC safety. "It's on us to go out and play hard and take it. We're going to build off of what we did last year, not live off it."

If the Bulldogs are indeed going to be a factor in the West race, Wesley Carroll will have to take that next step as a quarterback after being thrown into the fire last season as a true freshman. Nobody's ever going to accuse Carroll of having a Dan Marino-like arm, but his arm was even weaker than normal last season because he was recovering from shoulder surgery and couldn't throw the deep ball.

Mississippi State offensive coordinator Woody McCorvey, though, loved the way Carroll managed the offense and didn't make mistakes. He threw 137 consecutive passes without an interception before his first career pick last season.

This season, the Bulldogs will give Carroll a little bit more of the offense and they will expect a little bit more in return.

"We've really been able to spread the ball around, which is what we want to do," said Carroll, adding that receivers Aubrey Bell, Jamayel Smith, Brandon McRae and Co-Eric Riley had all taken their games to another level.

"If we can utilize those guys, it's just going to open up the running game more and open up the tight ends and running backs in the flats. I don't think people are going to be able to load up on us this year."

Croom said there's a fine line in adding more to Carroll's repertoire and giving him too much freedom.

"One of the things we have to be careful about as he grows more confident is still not being a gambler," Croom said. "We want him to get better with his throwing but also understand, as Clint Eastwood would say, that a man's got to know his limitations.

"Every time he improves, I have to go back and remind him, 'Wes, remember who you are and remember what it is that makes you successful.' "