Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State will hold its annual Maroon-White spring football game at 11 a.m. today and will be televised live on the SEC Network Alternate channel.

While the coaches’ top priority is to have an injury-free game, here are five other aspects to keep an eye on:

1. Backup QB race

It is likely that Dak Prescott and Nick Fitzgerald will be the only scholarship quarterbacks in action today. Damian Williams (pectoral muscle) and Elijah Staley (knee) have both been limited this spring leaving most of the back-up reps for Fitzgerald.

With Prescott entering his final year and a style of play that lends itself to injury, it is imperative for the Bulldogs to have a capable replacement should the situation arise.

Williams has served in that capacity the last two seasons but will get a push from the two redshirt freshmen entering fall camp.

2. Holes to fill

MSU lost three players along its offensive line at left tackle, right guard and center. Senior Rufus Warren has been solid protecting Prescott’s blind side this spring and junior Jamaal Clayborn has made a seamless transition to center despite not playing the position since pee wee league.

Junior Devin Desper is currently holding the starting right guard spot but is being pushed by redshirt freshman Deion Calhoun. It is a position battle that will likely continue into the fall.

3. Who’s gonna kick?

Evan Sobiesk’s decision to leave the team to attend dental school left the Bulldogs in a bind at placekicker. Sobiesk’s departure pressed punter Devon Bell back into the mix after not attempting a field goal at all last year.

Bell was solid as a freshman making 14-of-21 tries but struggled the following season converting only 6-of-14 kicks and losing the position to Sobiesk.

State has  three walk-ons Westin Graves, Bryce Brown and Michael Montalvo also competing for the job. Punter Logan Cooke, who missed his only field goal attempt last year, has not attempted a field goal this spring.

4. Backfield battle

Josh Robinson’s decision to declare for the NFL Draft left the Bulldogs with a battle in the backfield to fill his shoes. Juniors Brandon Holloway and Ashton Shumpert have experience on their side but redshirt freshmen Aeris Williams and Dontavian Lee will be hard to keep off the field.

Williams and Lee have combined for 406 yards of offense and seven touchdowns during the first two scrimmages this spring. Holloway was injured during last Saturday’s scrimmage and is unlikely to play today.

5. Diaz’s defense

Fans saw Manny Diaz’s defense during his previous stint at Mississippi State in 2010. However, none of his current players were on that roster and have had to adapt to the new scheme.

The defense struggled in its first spring scrimmage but showed improvement in the second. It will be intriguing to see how much more progress has been made in the final week.

Twitter: @loganlowery

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