We have a new friend of the blog this year in Fansided’s Evan Ertel. While I cannot confirm whether or not Evan currently has a cowbell, he does seem to be a rather okay guy. At the very least, the Maroon and White, while not quite Crimson, is a pleasing enough color scheme.
While you’re at it, go check out my answers to his questions over at Maroon and White Nation.
And here are his answers to get us familiar with this year’s iteration of the Bulldogs:
1: So, Zach Arnett. Let’s cut straight to the chase. Is this a guy that Miss State fans are ready to evaluate to keep long term, or is he a placeholder at head coach?
Oh boy, that is a question. My honest opinion is that it was making the best of a truly awful situation that no one could have ever planned for. But when Leach passed and left such a void, the least disruptive thing to do was to bring up a guy that the fans really liked as the DC, and see how much continuity they could hold on to. With the roster returning so much experience, it made sense just to elevate a guy from within that already knew the roster. I am not sure that new AD Zack Selmon is satisfied with the product he’s getting so far.
2: What’s the deal with the Miss State offense? I know it’s not technically the air raid any more, but after rushing the ball super well in the first two weeks, they seemed to revert back to the short, quick passing game and center things around Will Rogers again in weeks 3 and 4. What’s the offensive game plan coming into the Alabama game?
I think the first town weeks were a bit deceiving due to who was on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Will Rogers is the heart of this team and he has to play well for everything else to fall in to place. He finally started seeing the field well again last week against South Carolina and that needs to continue. He’s within striking distance of being the all-time leading passer in SEC history, and he needs to play like it. That’s not to discount the support he needs from the line as well.
3: Is Woody Marks the best running back in the SEC? Make your case.
I absolutely, unbiasedly think so. He runs harder than anyone else in the league and it’s insane. Violence at the point of contact is what makes him such a menace. He’s second in the conference in rush yards, and I would guess a good third of that came after the initial contact. I think he’s going to make a lot of money in the NFL.
4: The Bulldog defense is allowing opposing QBs to complete 74% of their passes through the first four games. What’s the deal here? Is this some intended bend-but-don’t-break scheme that allows short passes, or is the secondary just struggling that badly?
That absolutely seems to be the thought process after watching the DBs routinely line up 7-10 yards off the receiver. I don’t know if it’s because they don’t trust the talent, or if they don’t think they have the speed, but it’s so tough to watch teams just beat you constantly with quick passes that no one is able to get to fast enough to make a play on.
The most concerning thing is that the head coach is a defensive guy. Fingers crossed he’s identifying solutions or it’s going to be another long night in Davis Wade Stadium.
5: linebacker Jett Johnson leads the team in tackles, TFLs, sacks, and interceptions. Is there anything this guy can’t do?
No, he’s incredible. I was honestly a little surprised he came back to school for this season because he is a textbook NFL linebacker. He obviously has great hands, but also the vision to not lose the QB in the noise of a play breaking down. Johnson is the reason MSU won the Arizona game, keeping their QB in check as he was constantly extending plays with his legs, but was ultimately limited because of the experience at linebacker that helps in those situations like knowing to not over-pursue.
6: Are there any freshmen making an impact, or at least starting to flash and giving you hope they could make a big impact soon?
WR Creed Whittmore is a guy who really came out of the gates hot in week one against Southeast Louisiana, putting up 116 yards and two touchdowns on six touches. He was electric, but then he vanished against Arizona and LSU. He finally made his way back into being a contributor last week with two catches, but he certainly is a guy that makes you excited to see how he develops.
7: What would be a successful season for Mississippi State this year, in your opinion?
My realistic hopes for the remainder of the season are to be at 3-3 going into a stretch of Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, and Texas A&M. That’s a gauntlet for a team like Mississippi State, so if they can find a way to go 2-2 though that stretch, and pick up a win against Southern Miss to keep the bowl streak going, you have the Egg Bowl to round out your season. Winning the Egg Bowl has the power to do a lot for either school, so it could really be a referendum on Arnett’s job security. They aren’t grand expectations, but it’s the best way I think MSU navigates the remainder of the schedule, barring insanity happening any given Saturday.