By Brett Hudson
— Defensive line rotation remains very much to be determined. I’ve tried my best to get a handle of what the early depth chart looks like, but the portion of practice we see doesn’t lend itself to such since they never run four-man drills and they don’t cleanly divide the reps by string/position.
I can make some educated guesses, but they’ll be pretty broad. I’d make it a first tier of defensive ends at Chauncey Rivers, Marquiss Spencer, Fletcher Adams, Kobe Jones and Aaron Odom, and naturally there’s a lot of incentive to be in the top 4 since we’re talking pairings here. Defensive tackle is even harder to nail down with Kendell Jones still working his way back. It’s safe to say Lee Autry will have a prominent role, and I think Fabien Lovett has put himself above the other underclassmen, so it’s up to the rest of that crew (Nathan Pickering, Devon Robinson, Jaden Crumedy, Cameron Young and James Jackson) to make the case for themselves before Jones returns.
— I’ve really enjoyed watching the JUCO wide receiver JaVonta Payton run through drills. He’s such a smooth athlete, he executes technically difficult footwork and looks really smooth doing it. Now, if you’ll allow me a moment to hypothesize and think out loud, I have a thought on him.
I asked Joe Moorhead where he thought Payton would end up positionally; he said Payton’s currently practicing at Z, which is an outside receiver position. I found that interesting because he was previously poised to be a slot guy. This could be crosstraining and nothing more. It’s pretty common most places, and Moorhead’s Mississippi State is no different, to train receivers to play other/all positions in their offense. It’s a nice tool to have for matchup/depth purposes.
Yet, it’s no secret MSU needs help on the outside. There’s enough talent in the slot (Deddrick Thomas and Austin Williams), and maybe Payton has been moved out there as a potential answer? We’re posting this the day before the first scrimmage of the preseason, and those will ultimately decide the pecking order in that group, so we’ve got a few weeks to go. It’s just something I thought about while watching Payton. Time will tell.
— Alright, let’s get to the quarterbacks. I’m just not going to be the guy who dives into the minutia of every individual period throw we see, telling you which throws hit perfectly between the numbers as opposed to those at the facemask, etc. I’m not going to waste your time with it because it’s not important relative to what will decide the battle.
MSU’s starting quarterback is going to be whoever best threatens defenses downfield and whoever demonstrates the greatest command of the entire passing scheme. When media is allowed to watch practice, it’s mostly passes with no defense in predetermined route combinations. I can tell you the ball looks good coming out of Tommy Stevens’ hand, but I can also say the same for the other quarterbacks on the roster. They’re FBS quarterbacks, they know how to spin a football.
I hate to break it to you, but we (we as in the public) are not going to see anything that will decide the quarterback battle.
— Those of you that read the preseason camp position breakdown remember I was intrigued by who would end up as the No. 3 running back behind Kylin Hill and Nick Gibson — not necessarily for 2019 purposes, but for the future since this is Gibson’s senior year, and it’s not out of the question that Hill has a huge year and goes pro.
Well, it hasn’t been much of a race yet. Kareem Walker is apparently experiencing a hiccup in his enrollment process (Moorhead said they’re waiting to clear a couple of final hurdles); meanwhile, the promising freshman prospect Lee Witherspoon has been getting a lot of reps, especially while Alec Murphy has worked his way from not practicing to practicing with limited contact.
It’s not over for Kareem Walker in 2019, by any stretch: he is a junior college guy, thus he should be more advanced than Witherspoon, but for these guys, reps are currency, and Witherspoon’s account is getting deposits while Walker’s isn’t. There could be a breaking point of what Walker can recover.