STARKVILLE Joe Moorhead doesn’t shy away from his disappointment in Mississippi State’s inability to consistently throw the football in his first season.

The Bulldogs only completed 51.1 percent of their pass attempts in 2018 and no receiver eclipsed 440 yards.

“I’ve been able to pass the ball well essentially everywhere that I’ve been,” Moorhead said. “I was pretty optimistic in the strides we were going to take in Year 1 in the transition of offenses. I thought we could go from A to Z and we went from A to M.”

MSU ranked 13th in the Southeastern Conference last season, averaging only 173.8 yards per game through the air.

Both of the Bulldogs’ top receivers – Osirus Mitchell and Stephen Guidry – are back. Mitchell led the team with 26 catches for 427 yards and four touchdowns while Guidry grabbed 19 balls for 440 yards and three scores.

“I think with the skill that we have returning and those guys having another year in the system – in addition to the guys that we brought in – one of our goals going into fall camp is to improve the efficiency and explosiveness of the pass game,” Moorhead said.

State is hoping a pair of upperclassmen additions will help to bridge the experience gap with the receivers as well. The Bulldogs brought in Isaiah Zuber as a graduate transfer from Kansas State and also signed juco transfer JaVonta Payton as well.

Payton – a former Ole Miss signee – has turned heads early on in camp while Zuber is expeditiously absorbing the playbook. Zuber was the Wildcats’ leading receiver last season with 52 catches for 619 yards and five touchdowns and already has 1,321 receiving yards and 11 TDs to his credit during his career.

“He played a variety of positions at Kansas State – the slot and both outside positions,” Moorhead said. “More than anything (he’s learning) the formations, language and some of the things we do in the pass game that are route adjustment oriented. Coach (Michael) Johnson is doing a real good job with those guys and Isaiah is picking it up quickly.”

Wednesday was Mississippi State’s first practice in full pads. Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. has been limited this week with a lower body injury but the Starkville native is not expected to miss an extended amount of time.

The Bulldogs are still awaiting the arrival of running back Kareem Walker from Fort Scott Community College in Kansas. The former Michigan transfer is the only member of MSU’s 2020 signing class that has not made it to campus.

“We thought it was going to be sooner in the week,” Moorhead said. “There’s still a couple of administrative things on his end that he’s working to take care of.”

Moorhead did not have an update on the NCAA eligibility appeal for graduate transfer punter Corliss Waitman.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com Twitter: @loganlowery

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