May 6, 2013

Spring wrap-up: Mississippi State

STARKVILLE, Miss., - For the first time in Dan Mullen's tenure at Mississippi State the Bulldogs entered the offseason coming off a loss.

In fact, MSU might want to erase most of the last half of the 2012 slate. The Bulldogs began the year reeling off seven straight victories but struggled down the stretch losing five of their final six games including a 34-20 loss to Northwestern in the Gator Bowl.

"This is the first year we hadn't won our last game of the season," Mullen said. "I do think with a lot of guys here, it is a motivating factor for them coming into spring. They are not pleased with how the last year ended. Sometimes it will put a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. They got a little more 'umph' to them out there on the field because they kind of have that chip on their shoulder with how last year ended."

The good news is that expectations have certainly changed under Mullen's watch. State had only been to 13 bowl games before his arrival in 2009 but has been to three straight, winning two.

The Bulldogs have also invested $100 million in two major facility upgrades for the program. The $25 million Seal football complex opened its doors in January and construction is underway on a $75 million renovation to Davis Wade Stadium set to be completed by the 2014 season opener.

Mississippi State's work this spring was hindered by several injuries to key personnel, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Back-up quarterback Dak Prescott and second string running back Nick Griffin both missed the entire spring while recovering offseason surgeries. Tailbacks LaDarius Perkins and Josh Robinson also missed a chunk of practices due to injury as well.

Rising senior Tyler Russell was the only scholarship quarterback available this spring with the second and third team reps going to walk-ons Sam Cowart and Josh Hand. MSU signed two signal callers in February in four-star Cord Sandberg and three-star Damien Williams and hope to have both in camp this fall. Sandberg is considered a top MLB prospect and is likely to be selected high in June's draft.

The spring gave the Bulldogs a chance to implement some defensive changes brought on by new full-time coordinator Geoff Collins. Collins shared the role with Chris Wilson for the past two seasons before Wilson departed for Georgia.

"We've come out here any played in the scrimmages with a lot of juice and that's been positive," Collins said. "We've thrown a lot at them this spring schematically and they've picked it up well. The biggest thing is just playing hard, being physical and having energy and enthusiasm. That's what we've been preaching. Some days it's been better than others and we've got to get that to be a consistent theme of the defense."

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