December 29, 2012 10:55:53 PM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Two years ago, Chad Bumphis was in a sling watching his teammates prepare and then have all the fun at the Gator Bowl.
It's finally starting to sink in for the Mississippi State senior wide receiver that not only is he preparing for his final game in a Bulldogs jersey but he'll finally get a chance to shine on a New Year's Day spotlight.
"I'm certainly starting to realize that I've got two more practices left and one more big game to my career but I'm excited about this no question about it," Bumphis said. "It gets emotional for sure but let's not forget we're here to win a football game."
When MSU (8-4) takes the field for the 2013 Gator Bowl Tuesday (11 a.m., ESPN2) against No. 21 Northwestern University (9-3), Bumphis will be 94 receiving yards away from 1,000 in the 2012 campaign. The 5-foot-11 receiver from Tupelo matched his touchdown catches in the first three years combined with his production this season with 12 and he'll leave with the most receiving touchdowns (24) and receiving yards (2,252).
"If we have a big game I think I can (get to 1,000 yards)," Bumphis said. "It depends on the game plan. If the plan is to run the ball then we'll be outside blocking. It just depends how their defense plays us."
Bumphis' career season coincides with the arrival of first-year MSU receivers coach Tim Brewster, who was hired less than two weeks before the 2012 season opener following the scandal and subsequent resignation of Angelo Mirando.
Bumphis essentially learned how to coach himself and be personally responsible for his work while trying to explain the specific concepts of the of the Bulldogs offense to his new position coach.
"Teaching him the offense really allowed me to focus and understand what we're trying to accomplish on each and every look," Bumphis said.
"Coach Brewster has made a big impact on my game from an individual basis in terms of the fundamentals of being a wide receiver."
Bumphis' role of a leader as a senior upperclassmen has been a big factor to the records being broken by the MSU passing attack led by junior quarterback Tyler Russell.
"I've always said the best coaches on a team are players because watching Chad Bumphis get in and out of a break does nothing but help (freshman wide receiver) Fred Brown," Brewster said Saturday after MSU's practice session. "Chad understands details and concepts not only at his position but at other places on the football field. He has told me he is interested in coaching when he's done playing and he'll be a heck of a coach at some point someday."
Before spending over three years as the head coach at the University of Minnesota, Brewster had five years of experience in the National Football League with the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers.
"Chad is an outstanding football player because he's one of the smartest players I've ever had a chance to be involved with," Brewster said.
If the game is anything like the domination portrayed two years ago against the University of Michigan when MSU won 52-14 with three scores via pitch and catch, Bumphis should be excited about the opportunity to perform at EverBank Field.
"It's set up for any one of (the MSU receivers) to have a big game against Northwestern," Bumphis said. "With what they've shown on defense, they really do challenge receivers to make plays one on one."
Bumphis was sidelined two years ago from the 2011 Gator Bowl after suffering a broken collarbone in the Egg Bowl victory at the University of Mississippi. He said this month that he was begging and pleading with the MSU training staff to clear him for MSU's first New Year's Day bowl game in Florida since 1941. However, team doctors didn't want to risk Bumphis re-injuring the bone worse with two seasons of eligibility remaining. Bumphis laughs now about MSU strength coach Matt Balis having him run the stadium steps at the University of North Florida while the Bulldogs practiced for Michigan and would've done anything to get on the field.
"I was trying to bribe the trainers and (MSU trainer) Justin (Gremilion) to let me play," Bumphis said. "I think I could've played but he said he didn't want to take that risk. It was big that everybody got to play and everybody did good out there. I remember Mike Carr even caught a touchdown pass."
The last thing Bumphis hasn't accomplished in his MSU career is recording a worthwhile memory in a postseason game as he had just one catch for minus-3 yards against Wake Forest University in the 2011 Music City Bowl win. One of the most impactful and influential recruits in Mullen's first recruiting class in 2009 can change that final note in a matter of days.
"As a head coach these are the guys that decided on day one they believe in what you're doing," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "That is always very, very important to you. These are the first guys that believed in what we were trying to do here. They'll leave as one of the most successful classes in school history. Not only did they believe but followed through on it as well."