2018 Miss. State Projections on the Hour Glass
By John Luke McCord -
Many fans familiar with the football landscape around the SEC questioned the lack of southern ties attached to Joe Moorhead when Mississippi State AD John Cohen hired him last November. Moorhead, who holds a Hour Glass head coach stamp of 3(just a tick under national average), has won over Bulldog fans due to his humble, but confident nature and his offensive track record. Not to mention his hiring of three men who were head coaches last season in Mark Hudspeth (ULL), Andrew Breiner (Fordham) and Joey Jones (South Alabama).
No one, however, is questioning the lack of returning talent on the Mississippi State roster. Without star quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, and most of their staff, the Bulldogs defeated 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals in the 2017 TaxSlayer bowl. Mississippi State has a three-year Hour Glass recruiting stamp of 79.74, good enough for ninth in the SEC. However, much of that talent also combines experience and great development, which is why State comes in fifth in the SEC with an Hour Glass power ranking stamp of 97.5.
Let’s start with the offensive side of the ball, where the dogs will return a number of playmaking options. Last season Aeris Williams rushed for 1,107 yards and toted the rock 236 times. Nick Fitzgerald threw for 1,782 yards and 15 touchdowns, and ran for another 984 yards and 14 scores, all while showing potential to be even better. Though he completed just 55% of his passes in 2017, and had his season come to an end with a gruesome ankle injury in the first quarter of the Egg bowl, Fitzgerald is a likely candidate to blossom in Moorhead’s high-flying offense. Another candidate is Kylin Hill, who showed flashes of being a physical and explosive SEC back as a freshman last season, who could be carry it and catch it in the new scheme.
Let’s not forget Malik Dear is expected to return this year after a season off due to injury. He, along with Nick Gibson, Keith Mixon and others will also be versatile options alongside the big three previously mentioned. The receiving group returns the promise of Deddrick Thomas, and then mostly potential in Reggie Todd, Jamal Couch, Farrod Green and others. But the 2018 signing class could provide some help as the staff was able to ink four-stars Malik Heath (top in-state player) and Devonta “Whop” Jason. Four-star athlete Marcus Murphy should also see time on offense.
But let’s not kid ourselves. The Hour Glass metrics predict Mississippi State’s only losses to come against Auburn and Alabama, which means wins over Kansas State, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Ole Miss. The reason for that is an improved, feared and confident defensive unit coming back. Up front Jeffery Simmons could just be the best defensive lineman returning in the SEC. If he’s not, maybe it’s Montez Sweat, who is returning for his senior season after recording 10.5 sacks last season. Add Gerri Green, Fletcher Adams and Kendell Jones to the mix and the unit should be good. Linebacker could be even better with the likes of Leo Lewis, Erroll Thompson and Willie Gay back in the fold this fall. The secondary should be highlighted by the team’s leading returning tackler in Mark McLaurin, who picked off three passes in the bowl game and also led the team with six interceptions.
HG analytics pick: 10-2, 3rd in SEC West (projected #10 finish in final CFP rankings)
My pick: 9-3, 3rd in SEC West
Last Year’s Analytics Pick 8-4; Actual Record 8-4 (100 percent accuracy)
Hour Glass National Recruiting Ranking: 25th – Inside our Realistic College Football Playoff Bust Line on our talent index.
National Coaching Rank for Joe Moorhead on HG Scale: 32nd (Moorhead Stamp at 3) – Average coaching value for 2018 set at 3.75.
Returning Mississippi State quarterback play rated 30th in the country out of 130 teams. Average quarterback stamp nationally for 2018 is 8.3. Mississippi State has a stamp of 14.5.