August 16, 2018 11:03:12 AM
STARKVILLE -- One of the Joe Moorhead offense's primary tenants is it does whatever a defense allows it to. It may accomplish that with the spread and zone concepts most popular in today's college football, and most popular in the Moorhead offense, but if given the opportunity, it will gash defenses with more traditional concepts such as pulling offensive linemen.
"Zone, zone read, power, pin-and-pull, lead. It's a mixture of everything," new offensive line coach Marcus Johnson said.
Mississippi State's offensive linemen did so much pulling in the Dan Mullen system, Johnson found he didn't have much teaching to do. Johnson said he has drilled that skill at times in preseason camp, including in individual drills Tuesday, and has found MSU to be proficient in every way. It will help the Bulldogs in many ways.
"They've done a great job of skip-pulling and staying square," Johnson said, referencing the kind of pull where the lineman keeps his shoulders parallel with the line of scrimmage as he crosses the formation. "They've done a great job of open pulls, as well, working down the line.
"We have to pull guards, we have to pull tackles, even when we call screens it's kind of the same because we have to drop-step and go to the flat. It applies in a bunch of our schemes that we do."
Winning a tight end job
Joe Moorhead's tight ends tend to enjoy his offense, both in their playing time and their usage as receivers. The new staff is not hurting for options.
The Bulldogs have one of the most crowded tight end groups in the nation as it splits reps among seven players. The coaching staff knows what factors will separate those who play from those who don't.
"Because the tight end position is such a pivotal cog in our system, they need to block like a lineman in the run game and execute like a receiver in the pass game," Moorhead said. "We want body types like a big X receiver. The thing we're looking for is production in the run game and the pass game."
Among those seven, senior Justin Johnson, junior Farrod Green and sophomore Dontea Jones got the most playing time last year. Green was second among tight ends with nine catches for 174 yards; Johnson caught eight passes for 44 yards and a touchdown.
The position group also has sophomore Christian Roberson, freshman Powers Warren after redshirting in 2017 and two freshmen additions, Brad Cumbest and Geor'quarius Spivey. Offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Luke Getsy said Cumbest and Spivey fit into Southeastern Conference football right away from a physical stature standpoint.
"I think they're going to have an increased role in the pass game," quarterback Nick Fitzgerald said. "I think they're excited because they're going to be more first and second reads instead of afterthoughts."
Sorting out defensive line reps
The depth on MSU's defensive line will be a luxury for defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and defensive line coach Brian Baker -- in due time. For now, it's proving hard to manage.
"That's the challenging part, making sure that the top half of the groups get enough work but you're also developing the bottom half of groups so those guys get a chance to realistically compete," Baker said. "We have to take care of a lot of it in individuals and get as much as we can in team."
The two practices of the week open to the media have presented injury news both in the good and bad.
Backup quarterback Keytaon Thompson and defensive end Marquiss Spencer both returned to practice Tuesday after missing Monday's practice. However, linebackers Willie Gay and Alec Murphy missed both practices.
Offensive lineman Michael Story has been practicing with a club over his left hand.
All of them got an opportunity to heal Wednesday: the team cancelled its practice as the staff surprised the team with a trip to Geyser Falls Water Park in Philadelphia. MSU returns to practice Thursday and Friday before a Saturday scrimmage.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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