The one thing Mississippi State could not afford early in the season was injuries.
But through the first three weeks of the season, the Bulldogs have had their share of players on the shelf and that has affected their depth in all three phases.
Quarterback Tommy Stevens has essentially missed a full game of action due a right shoulder injury, left guard Dareuan Parker has been out since the beginning of the second quarter of the season opener, All-American cornerback Cameron Dantzler was out last Saturday against Kansas State and center Darryl Williams has missed half a game.
And that’s just the starters.
Running back Alec Murphy is out for the season and back-up tailback Nick Gibson was out of action last week.
MSU already entered the year with 10 players who are forced to serve eight-game suspensions for their involvement in an academic misconduct case involving a part-time tutor and an online chemistry course.
While the university is unable to identify which players are involved in the scandal due to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, five of those 10 players suspended are believed to be on the Bulldogs’ two-deep depth chart.
Linebacker Willie Gay Jr., wide receiver Devonta Jason, offensive lineman Kwatrivous Johnson and safety Marcus Murphy have all been suspended for State’s first three games for a “violation of team rules.” Defensive tackle Lee Autry was suspended for the Louisiana and Kansas State games for the same reason, but did start against Southern Miss.
Due to their negotiated resolution with the NCAA, the Bulldogs are allowed to pick which games those players serve their suspensions. Head coach Joe Moorhead was asked on Monday why he chose to play Autry against Southern Miss, but he declined to comment.
Regardless of why a player is out – whether it be suspension or injury – it has an adverse affect on the team. In last week’s loss to Kansas State, four starters and eight total players from Mississippi State’s two deep missed the entire game.
That means eight other players had to fill those spots – either starters playing extended snaps or players further down the depth chart moving up to take up the slack. That takes a toll on a team and it has been noticeable in a few areas. The Bulldogs are currently starting two redshirt freshmen at defensive tackle and have true freshmen serving as the primary back-ups at quarterback, running back and both cornerback positions.
Until MSU is back to full strength from a health standpoint and the remainder of those suspensions are served, each game will be a struggle in certain aspects from a personnel standpoint.