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Bumphis ready for bigger role

Mississippi State’s Chad Bumphis was one of the best freshmen in the SEC last season.

But he’s the first to tell you that getting open is a little easier when defenses are concentrating on Anthony Dixon’s every move.

“He made everybody better,” Bumphis said. “But we’re not going to have him anymore, so we’re going to have to spread teams out a whole lot more. We’re going to have to make a lot more big plays because we can’t depend on Anthony every play.

“The other thing it does is make us be better blockers. Last year, we might miss a block at receiver, but it was OK. Anthony would just run somebody over. Not having him changes everything at wide receiver.”

The plan is for Bumphis to be a lot more than just a receiver next season.

He led the Bulldogs with 32 catches for 375 yards as a freshman and also had six rushing attempts. Look for his touches to double next season, which means he’s going to get the ball a number of different ways.

“With coach (Dan) Mullen’s offense, you never know,” said Bumphis, who will also remain involved in the return game on special teams. “I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting some balls on handoffs and a few other ways.

“I’ve got to do more to help the team this year.”

The Bulldogs open spring practice on March 23. The 5-11, 195-pound Bumphis says he’s in better shape now than at any point a year ago. He’s kept his weight the same. But thanks to strength coach Matt Balis’ grueling offseason program, Bumphis said the baby fat is gone.

And if anything, he says he’s even faster than when he arrived in Starkville. He’s also a better student of the game.

“I’ve watched a lot of film from last year, seeing where I lacked and what I needed to work on,” Bumphis said. “I watched film of every game we played and know I will be better fundamentally with my route-running. I have a better feel now for what defenses are trying to do to me.”

Bumphis, who’s from Tupelo, Miss., was one of the crown jewels of Mullen’s first recruiting class. Had he not chosen to stay in-state, he probably would have gone to Florida.

His favorite player was Percy Harvin, and the Gators made a hard push. In fact, Mullen was one of the ones doing the pushing before getting the head coaching job at Mississippi State.

But when he landed in Starkville, one of his first recruiting calls was to Bumphis, who in the back of his mind never wanted to leave the Magnolia State in the first place.

“I wanted to come in and do something for my home state,” Bumphis said. “The other thing is that it’s a big thing for me to play in front of my family and friends. Plus, being from this state, I wanted to be part of the rivalry with Ole Miss.

“I know the direction this program is headed. I think you saw that at the end of last year. I think the top high school players in this state are seeing that, too.”