April 21, 2013 11:54:32 AM
STARKVILLE - Jeremey Chappelle is now already in the second stage of development following this spring football season.
That look of confidence showed itself in high dosage as the junior wide receiver led Mississippi State University with 114 yards on eight catches and a touchdown in Saturday's Maroon-White spring game at Davis Wade Stadium.
Under the leadership of head coach Dan Mullen, new players are put through a three-step mental and physical development: what you're supposed to do, how you're supposed to do it and why you're supposed to do it that way.
After a top performance in the spring game Saturday, Chappelle said afterwards he feels he's already at the final part of the second stage and starting to understand why the philosophy of Mullen's spread-option offense will allow him to flourish in Starkville.
"I hope this spring game proved to a lot of people that I can play this game and help Mississippi State right away," Chappelle said. "I won't lie about my spring because I honestly had a hard time learning the plays and the small things about the offense. Now that I've got the plays and more importantly, the tempo down to a natural thing, I know I can do big things."
With its top four pass catchers from last season not having any eligibility left, the Mississippi State University offense is clearly looking for wide receivers that can immediately contribute.
Enter Jeremey Chappelle - a junior college transfer from Tyler, Texas, who was one of the coveted recruits of the incoming class after MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning saw him play at Tyler Junior College last fall. The 6-foot-2 wide receiver was the sixth-best junior college product according to 247Sports.com at the time he verbally committed to the Bulldogs on Dec. 12.
"I saw an instant opportunity to come in and make an impact because that's what they were telling me when they were recruiting me from day one," Chappelle said. "Trust me when I say, I know what's expected of me early."
Mullen and the MSU offensive staff has to get six scholarship wide receivers who have never started in a Division I college game the necessary experience during the next month of workouts. In a pre-spring media session, after being asked about any new players that will get extended looks and opportunities to get to the top of the depth chart, Mullen answered with 'obviously Chappelle'.
"I think he's come a long way," Mullen said Saturday after the Maroon-White spring game. "I hope this is a real confidence-builder for him coming out of spring right now and going into the summer. Now he understands. He's been through an off-season program, he's been through spring practice, he's been through what the offense is."
Chappelle is one of those players MSU must get familiar with the offensive playbook and get chemistry with Bulldogs starting quarterback Tyler Russell. MSU will be without senior wide receivers Chad Bumphis, Chris Smith, Arceto Clark along with tight end Marcus Green for the 2013 season. This loss of production means senior-to-be tailback LaDarius Perkins is the leading returner in catches from last season with just 19.
Chappelle is the combination of size and speed that can help senior quarterback Tyler Russell as he finds himself in 2013 wanting to go to the short receiver a majority of the time and allow him to create yards after the catch. Chappelle showcased that ability Saturday in front of an estimated 21,000 in attendance at Davis Wade Stadium as he took a screen pass from walk-on quarterback Sam Cowart and rolled 55 yards for a touchdown after a brutal downfield block from Malcolm Johnson.
"I just saw green grass in front of me and after that great block by Malcolm, all I had to do was make two defenders miss and I knew I was getting in the end zone," Chappelle said. "That play was one of the greatest feelings for me because not only did I make a great play but from before the snap, to when I got the ball to when I started running, I knew how and why everything would develop the way it did. I can't tell you how great that feeling is inside."
In prior spring scrimmages this month, Chappelle has been a functional option for Russell in routes over the middle where he's been able to outfight defenders for jump ball situations.
Chappelle caught 60 passes for 801 yards and nine touchdowns last season for Tyler Junior College and chose MSU over offers from the University of Hawaii, Louisiana Tech University and the University of West Virginia.
Chappelle, who enrolled early at MSU on Jan. 8, has already become a primary receiver target from Russell in the first week of spring practice. He, along with the rest of the MSU 2013 recruiting class, will get their first chance to play at Davis Wade Stadium in a noon scrimmage Saturday that is free and open to the public.
These new group of receivers also must adapt quickly to a new position coach as Billy Gonzales, a former colleague of Mullen's at the University of Utah and University of Florida, was hired in late February to coach the wide receivers. Gonzales, who came from the being the co-offensive coordinator at the University of Illinois last year, said it's a completely new slate of expectations and evaluations for every pass catcher on the roster.
"The fresh start begins from earning my respect right now," Gonzales said. "I always constantly go back to them that whatever I know about them right now is your work ethic."
Chappelle is just another junior college player that Mullen knows he is fighting a losing battle with by having to get him prepared to play in the Southeastern Conference as soon as possible. The normal progression for a MSU player recruited out of high school is to redshirt his first season then play a season of special teams before he ever gets an attempt to crack the starting lineup.
"Now he can come back and have a little confidence in what he's doing, instead of just learning everything for the first time or figuring it out for the first time," Mullen said. "He now has confidence in moving forward and he should take some big steps this summer."
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