Continuing our weeklong series examining key position battles at each program across the conference. Today, we turn to two key competitions at Mississippi State.
1. Running back: The Bowling Ball, also known as Josh Robinson, is gone after one spectacular season as the Bulldogs’ starting running back. But coach Dan Mullen knows how to replace one good back with another. After all, Robinson was the fourth 1,000-yard rusher Mullen helped produce, joining LaDarius Perkins, Vick Ballard and Anthony Dixon. Will Ashton Shumpert be next? As a sophomore, he came off the bench in 12 games, scoring two touchdowns and posting a robust 5.8-yards-per-carry average. But Shumpert isn’t being handed the job by any means. He’ll have to fend off Dontavian Lee, who is a load at 227 pounds, and Aeris Williams, a former Mr. Football in Mississippi.
2. Safety: Kendrick Market is a favorite to start, even after his torn Achilles last season. When it comes to veteran savvy and smarts, he’s going to be tough to keep off the field. But Mississippi State needs to replace both starters from last season, Jay Hughes and Justin Cox. The second spot, as of now, is a toss-up. Asking Jamal Peters, the No. 2-ranked safety in the 2015 class, to come in during the summer and win the job right away might be unrealistic. The same might be said of Brandon Bryant, a much-talked-about redshirt freshman. So either Deontay Evans or Kivon Coman, who both have played in all 26 career games, had better try to lock down the position now before those two develop.