December 12, 2010 12:45:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- With Chad Bumphis ruled out for the Gator Bowl, Mississippi State''s offense will play without its most dynamic skill player.
But at this point in the season, MSU (8-4) is much better equipped to deal with the loss of its leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
True freshman Michael Carr has progressed throughout the season, earning increased playing time in the last half of the year. Plus, sophomore Chris Smith has a team-high 11 catches over the last three games, when the Bulldogs have averaged 220 passing yards per game.
The Bulldogs will play Michigan without Bumphis, who was the team''s starting punt returner, and possibly senior Leon Berry, who was been out since Oct. 9 after surgery to repair a dislocated ankle. MSU head coach Dan Mullen said Berry hasn''t been ruled out officially for the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl as the team will re-evaluate his status when the trip to Jacksonville, Fla., nears.
Still, Berry hasn''t practiced since injuring his ankle and odds are against him having an impact, much less playing, against the Wolverines.
"We just have to step up," Smith said. "Those are two big-time players, Chad and Leon. But as it goes on, it''s a big-time game we''re coming into. We''ve got more chips to play for right now."
Bumphis'' receiver position in the slot should easily be covered by Brandon Heavens, who has been Bumphis'' primary backup this season, though they''ve been on the field at the same time at moments this season. Heavens is third on the team with 20 catches for 304 yards and two touchdowns.
Friday, the Bulldogs had its first practice of bowl season, and Sam Williams and true freshman Malcolm Johnson took first team reps at wide receiver.
The position group didn''t experience the flux of position switches the offensive line and secondary had, as defensive tackle James Carmon has worked at left tackle the last two days and Louis Watson and Johnthan Banks moved from corner to safety.
Mullen, who has expressed his desire to build receiving depth, appears comfortable with the trio of Smith, Heavens and Arceto Clark leading the group into Jacksonville.
"We''re getting the opportunity, and we''ve got to take advantage and get better everyday," Smith said. "It''ll come down to execution for us."
Mullen and the Bulldogs will return to practice at 6 p.m. today.
Angelo Mirando to fill in for Hudspeth
Former MSU receivers coach Mark Hudspeth''s decision to accept the head coach job at Louisiana-Lafayette has left open the door for graduate assistant Angelo Mirando.
Luckily for Dan Mullen, Mirando is a familiar -- and trusted -- instructor who''ll take over Hudspeth''s duties through the Gator Bowl. No decision has been made on a full-time replacement for Hudspeth.
Mirando and Mullen go back to summer 2007, when the former started out as an intern for the Florida Gators before becoming a graduate assistant the next spring season.
"Just came in and started working," Mullen said. "He''d always say, hey, do you have anything else for me? Is there more I can do? Reminds me a lot of myself. Anything you give him to do, he does a great job with it."
Mirando should make a seamless transition into coaching the receivers as he knows the playbook and has worked with the group all season.
"And it''s a great experience for him right now, running a meeting and he''s coaching on the field," Mullen said. "He''s gonna be a great football coach. He''s getting the opportunity to start being a position coach right now. He''s gonna get a lot of opportunities in the future."
Smith added: "If I can''t ask Coach Hud, I''d always go and ask Angelo because he knows what''s going on. That''s my boy. Angelo has stay on me even when coach Hud was here."
Hudspeth, who was not at the Bulldogs'' Friday practice, spent two years as MSU''s receivers coach after a successful stint at North Alabama, where he went 66-21 from 2002-08. Hudspeth led UNA to a pair of Gulf South Conference titles and five NCAA playoff appearances.
1. Sykes' faith leads him to coach at Starkville Academy HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Mangum wins SEC batting title COLLEGE SPORTS
4. Former Bulldog Freitas qualifies for Olympics LOCAL SPORTS