first_imgMississippi State freshman Malik Dear scored Mississippi State's first touchdown of Saturday's 30-17 loss at Texas A&M.Mississippi State freshman Malik Dear scored Mississippi State’s first touchdown of Saturday’s 30-17 loss at Texas A&M.Did you see the way Malik Dear ran Saturday? Did you see the way the Mississippi State freshman took the handoff from Dak Prescott, ran off the right side of the offensive line and didn’t stop until he traveled 52 yards for a touchdown?It was a sight to see, not only because it was one of the more well-protected plays all night against Texas A&M — Dear went 36 yards before he was touched — but because, once the Aggies did get a hold of him, Dear just kept on going. In a 30-17 loss that was Mississippi State’s second in the Southeastern Conference, effectively ending any and all hope for an SEC West championship, Dear’s run was a bright spot.We should see more of that and more of him. It’s Troy coming to town this Saturday for a 3 p.m. matinee at Davis-Wade Stadium, and the Trojans are bad (1-3 this season, the lone win against an FCS team). Play the young guys, Dan Mullen. Some of them you’re going to have to because injuries have hit you hard. Safety Kendrick Market is out for the year (torn ACL), and the list of those “questionable” include tight end Gus Walley, left tackle Rufus Warren, wide receivers Gabe Myles and Joe Morrow and maybe cornerback Will Redmond, too.So let’s see Dear, Justin Johnson, Brandon Bryant, Jamal Peters and Mark McLaurin. Can Elgton Jenkins play 60 snaps at tackle? Let’s find out.“I’m ready for anything the coaches have ready for me,” Dear told reporters Tuesday. “I’m just here to do whatever the coaches ask me.”The season is not lost, so this is not a waving of the white towel. Far from it. But the reality of Mississippi State’s current situation is that there is very little veteran depth at the positions affected by injury, so the only logical solution is to go young. And that’s a good thing, because maybe some of these guys are ready and can help you win games the rest of the way.Like Dear, who is 5-foot-9 and 220 pounds and a first-year freshman from Murrah.He enrolled in school in January, which almost always helps, and has been impressive what he can do in limited touches. That touchdown run against Texas A&M — the third of his career. He also has nine catches for 94 yards, most of which occurred in the last three weeks.“I’ve seen him progress over the past couple of weeks,” Mullen said Monday. “When you put the ball in his hands, good things usually happen.”They do, which is why I’m not really concerned right now whether he’s a wide receiver or a running back. Truth is, he’s both. They’ll line him up in the slot, just as they’ve done so far this season, but will also motion him into two-back sets (as was the case with the touchdown run). We do not need a name for his role yet, even if it should be increased. He’s one of the few guys who has shown the ability to make explosive plays: Mississippi State led the SEC with 52 “chunk” (20-plus yard gains) in eight conference games in 2014. This year it has eight through three.Traditionally under Mullen, Mississippi State has not been a team that relied on young players — but was that more about Mullen’s hesitance or them not being ready? Every broadcast of every MSU game is filled with references to the unearthed finds the Bulldogs have profited from, but look at this roster. Dear and Peters were two of seven four-star prospects the Bulldogs signed in February. Success has allowed for recruiting of more highly touted guys, who are that way in large part because they are more physically developed than their peers. The game readiness question is more mental than it is physical. Now, nearly halfway through their first season, it’s time to see what a lot of these guys can do.Contact Hugh Kellenberger at hkellenber@jackson.gannett.com. Follow @HKellenbergerCL on Twitter.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *