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Mullen Seeks Catches and Coverage

By Anthony Richards
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On top of the receiving turnover, Mullen must replace Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, who combined for nine interceptions in the secondary in 2012.

The biggest questions for Mississippi State entering the 2013 season focus on the lack of experience in both the receiving corps and the secondary.
These units, which were seen as the strengths of the team a year ago, are now flooded with inexperience and uncertainty.
Dan Mullen enters his fifth year as head coach and must replace his four leading receivers - Chad Bumphis, Chris Smith, Arceto Clark and Marcus Green. 
No returning receiver had more than 20 receptions and 200 yards in 2012, but the Bulldogs have many potential options to help fill each of the significant voids of these units. 
Junior Jameon Lewis has exhibited speed as a kick returner and seems to be a perfect fit in Mullen’s spread offensive attack.  At 6-4 and 6-1 respectively, sophomore Joe Morrow and junior Robert Johnson provide big targets over the middle of the field and in the red zone for starting quarterback Tyler Russell.
Mullen understands the challenge that the new receivers must face as they make the transition from supporting cast to starting roles.
“Those guys are going to experience the high and the lows,” Mullen said at SEC Media Days.  “They have the quarterback [Tyler Russell] that will help them through the process.”
On top of the receiving turnover, Mullen must replace Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, who combined for nine interceptions in the secondary in 2012.
Mullen looks to replace their production with juniors Jamerson Love and Justin Cox.  Love had one interception last fall in a nickel role and Cox was a highly-touted recruit coming out of junior-college. 
Mullen can find some assurance in the return of senior free safety Nickoe Whitley, who looks to help erase any mistakes made as the new corners adjust to their starting roles.  Whitley finished with three interceptions and capped his 2012 season on a high note with two in the Gator Bowl against Northwestern.
Starting defensive tackle Kaleb Eulls believes that turnover is just something that the defense must deal with as a whole.  Expectations are the same regardless of whether the players are freshmen or seniors.
“We got some great guys that went on to the NFL and graduated,” Eulls said Wednesday during SEC media days.  “That’s just part of it.” 
The outcome of the 2013 season is dependent on Mullen’s ability to fill the holes and the quickness that the new players are able to adapt to their starting roles on the team.
A successful season hinges on whether the Bulldogs will be able to consistently defend the pass and move the ball through the air.
If success through the air both offensively and defensively is still a looming question at the end of the year, then Mississippi State may have trouble putting together a fourth straight winning season. 

Anthony Richards - Anthony was born and raised in Jacksonville, Fla. and currently attends the University of North Florida. He is a sports journalist, with a particular passion for college football in the south and the atmosphere that surrounds it. He enjoys the classic southern combination of Bar-B-Q and a large glass of sweet tea. You can reach Anthony at