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MSU's receivers growing into roles

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State senior quarterback Tyler Russell always gathers the new and freshmen wide receivers to give them a piece of critical advice. 

 

"I tell all of them to just be patient because you never know when your time is going to come," Russell said. "You never know when that opportunity will present itself but it will. Trust me." 

 

MSU's young group of wide receivers is finally overcoming its lack of playing experience and realizing Russell's words of wisdom. 

 

D'Runnya Wilson had his breakout moment Saturday night in a 59-26 loss to No. 10 LSU at Davis Wade Stadium in a national television matchup. One play after being sacked, Russell changed the protection and the play to go to Wilson, a 6-foot-6 freshman wideout from Birmingham, Ala., for a big play. The result was a perfect throw over double coverage for a 59-yard touchdown strike. The score with 6 minutes and 28 seconds left in the first half gave MSU its first and only lead, 23-21, in what turned out to be a 59-26 loss. 

 

"He changed everything," MSU coach Dan Mullen said of Russell. "He saw a certain pressure coming. That just kind of shows his experience." 

 

According a new policy created by the MSU football program in which freshman are only allowed to speak after games, Wilson was unavailable Monday evening after practice. 

 

"I have the greatest coaches in the world because if they can turn a basketball player like myself into a big-time college football player at the highest level of competition, what can't they do?," Wilson said after having two catches for 31 yards in a 51-7 victory against Alcorn State on Sept. 7. 

 

Russell threw two touchdown passes to give him 39, which moved past Derrick Taite, who threw 38 from 1993-96. All told, Russell has 42 touchdowns (run and pass) in his career, which moved him past Wayne Madkin (41 from 1998-2001) and tied him with John Bond (42 from 1980-83) for third on the program's all-time list. Don Smith (1983-86) is the MSU career leader with 52 touchdowns. In Russell's last two games against LSU, he is 33 of 49 for 441 yards and three touchdowns. 

 

"I think it was just (D'Runnya Wilson's) time and he made a big play," Russell said. "I do think that will give him a lot of confidence and trust moving forward that things are looking up for him." 

 

Wilson, who has been given the nickname 'Bear' by his teammates, had two catches in each of his first two games. He has been a big-body target to catch jump balls over the middle of the field. Against LSU, Wilson had two catches for a career-high 80 yards. His first touchdown catch showed he can be a weapon down the field. 

 

"I think you see from week to week to week (the receivers are) making bigger plays," Mullen said. "I think that is just huge when you starting seeing guys making more and more plays." 

 

Another quality receiving target has been junior Jameon Lewis. The 5-foot-10 playmaker was one of two wide receivers Saturday night to finish with more than 100 yards. He has become a target on bubble screens and has shown an ability to make tacklers miss on crossing routes. 

 

Through five games, MSU has only two receivers -- Lewis 19, Robert Johnson with 11 -- with double-digit catches, but both are in the top 20 in the SEC in yards per catch. 

 

"I think we stepped it up on the offensive side of the ball against LSU," Lewis said. "We put in a lot of time in our fundamentals after practice. It may look like we're joking around out there, but sooner rather than later in that session it'll get competitive." 

 

Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.

 

 

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