Today, we take a look at what should be the strongest and weakest positions for Mississippi State entering the 2010 season:
Strongest position: Defensive line
Key returnees: Pernell McPhee, Fletcher Cox, Josh Boyd, Nick Bell, Devin Jones
Key departures: Kyle Love
The skinny: It’s always nice to have a stud in your defensive line, a player the other team has to plan around, and that’s where McPhee comes in this season. He was very good as a junior after coming over from junior college and led the Bulldogs with 12 tackles for loss. But with this being his second year in the league, he has everything it takes to be the best defensive end in the league. Cox and Boyd both played last season as true freshmen, and both are listed as starters this spring at tackle. Even though they play inside, both are extremely athletic. The newcomer to watch inside is 6-foot-7, 345-pound James Carmon, who played at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College last year. There’s a lot of promising young talent up front defensively for the Bulldogs. In addition to Cox and Boyd, Bell, Jones and Shane McCardell are three other sophomores who’ve played.
Weakest position: Running back
Key returnees: Robert Elliott
The skinny: Take away a player as productive as Dixon from any offense, and there are going to be obvious questions. He led the SEC in rushing last season with an average of 126.5 yards per game, and the Bulldogs leaned on him every step of the way. There are some talented guys eager to replace him, but very little experience. Juniors Robert Elliott and Vick Ballard are listed atop the depth chart this spring at running back. Mississippi State fans have been waiting for Elliott to break out. Maybe this is his year after playing in Dixon’s shadow and being slowed by injuries. Ballard put up gaudy numbers in junior college last season, while 225-pound redshirt freshman Montrell Conner will also get a long look. All three will be running behind an experienced offensive line. Four of the five starters from a year ago are back up front.