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MSU’s Offensive Production & Needed Improvements

Mississippi State
Content provided by All Things Maroon – A MSU and SEC blog.

dan-mullen-p1Well guys, as many of the SEC coaches, and Dan Mullen himself have suggested, routine is what the MSU team needs now. So, with that, I figured that we would do the same here on the blog.

Before the season started, there was much debate concerning whether or not Dan Mullen could turn the corner withhis second year Bulldog team. Just evaluating MSU’s schedule, had many delaying their positive forecasts for 2011 season, when MSU would not be facing the nation’s 4th toughest line up. Here we are10 weeks later, and MSU has dominated their non-conference slate, and picked up a few wins that no one in the media expected they would. State stands in at 7-2 overall, 3-2 in conference, and a #20national ranking in the BCS standings. I myself predicted the Dawgs to finish 8-4 over their regular season stretch, and with 7 wins already under their belt, MSU is in position to reach for more than just 8wins. The remainder of the season for State, includes a trip to #6 Bama, a home match up with #18 Arkansas, and struggling rival Ole Miss. Even though the Maroon Nation is experiencing some of the biggest highs in a decade, Mullen and the Bulldogs cannot allow complacency to set in, considering that not advancing on their season’s success thus far, could result in disappointment. Dan Mullen’s motto is ‘play with relentless effort’, and I have no doubt in my mind that he and his staff will coach the same way this week, and next. In doing that, Mullen has already mentioned that he andhis staff would spend this week evaluating areas that they can improve in, be Offensively, Defensively, or on Special Teams. Along those same lines, Mullen mentioned examining what was working, and what wasn’t working so far this season, in determining whether or not those items would be implemented for the remainder of 2010. I figured that today, we could discuss the Offense’s production, and some areas of improvement.

Here is where MSU ranks in Offensive categories, both nationally and in the SEC:

Total Off. 383 ypg (56th) SEC- 8th
Rush Off. 218 ypg (15th) SEC- 2nd
Pass Off. 164 ypg (100th) SEC- 10th
Scoring Off. 28 ppg (57th) SEC- 9th
Time of Poss. 31:00 min (34th) SEC- 2nd

Offensive Improvements

There’s no secret that the strength of this MSU team, is running the football. Even though, I think we can all agree that fact slips Les Keonning’s mind sometimes.If there is anything besides the fundamentals and execution that play into an Offense’s success-not just in a game, but on individual series, it has to be the element of rhythm. In my opinion, the only thing that has kept MSU from being 8-1, and dominant on Offense, has been the lack of rhythm at times. Now, by dominant, I’m not talking Oregon or Auburn type numbers, but game-controlling, clock eating, wear ya’ down, Offense, that comes away with points. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it doesn’t have to earn style points, but it does have to move the chains. There is nothing more demoralizing than running the play clock down, and running for 6 or 7 yards, followed by a no-huddle quick snap, and dose of the same damage on the ground. But, it’s those terribly timed pass attempts that kill that rhythm. So, the main improvements I want to see with the Offense, are in the areas of the passing game and play-calling. As I’ve mentioned in the recent weeks, Keonning has done an excellent job of killing drives before they’ve even started. As a run-first, run-strong Offense, the last thing we need to do is throw on 1st downs. That killed us at LSU, and almost cost us vs UAB andUK. I understand the comfort in throwing on 1st, because it gives you 2 downs to make up for the yardage if you don’t earn yards. But, when your starting QB fails to complete 60% of his passes, then down-by-down play-calling has to be smarter. Here’s my keys to improving the Offense:

  • Lower the amount of throws on 1st Downs.
  • Implement shorter pass plays that are extensions of the running game (shuffle passes, RB/WR screens, TE drags).
  • Never have QBs Tyler Russell or Chris Relf throw out of empty, shotgun sets. For QBs who are learning and growing in the system, nothing is more beneficial than an emergency receiver, or blocker. Not only that, but having RBs in the back field before the snap, gives the opposing Defense the appearance of run, and removes some predictability.
  • On short yardage situations (3 yds or shorter), (A) stay away from plays that require time to develop, such as counters and read plays. Defenses know we are running, and allowing them more time to penetrate and eat up blockers, only hurts us. No hesitation.(B) (Wild Packages) I’d stay away from having a different player at signal caller on 3rd and short situations. Different players have different voices, and rhythms of cadence. Either go silent on the snap, or don’t go at all. Why get fancy and cost yourself 5 yards on a false start, when Relf can get the yards for you. I’m for the Rabid Dawg, but snap counts do not need to implemented on those type plays.
  • Get Relf more comfortable throwing on the run. He had two poor throws on the run vs UK, but he’s too big of a threat for the coaches not to roll him out. Also, since Relf has shown that he lacks that internal clock, that a QB must have in the pocket, it should cut down on sacks, pressures, and the mistakes that accompany.
  • Continue to keep Bumphis involved. Even if he’s not catching the ball, let the kid run it, and possibly throw it.
  • Get RB LaDarius Perkins the ball in open space. Shuffle passes WR/RB screens. We’ve seen the kid’s explosiveness, but he hasn’t been allowed to be the game changer that he could be.
  • Use TE Brandon Henderson and WR Chris Smithmore. Many teams are targeting their coverage on Heavens, Bumphis, and Clark, but we have to get Henderson more involved down the stretch, andSmith has to be given some chances to develop.

Rushing Leaders

  • RB Vick Ballard- 619 yds, 6.7 avg, 12 TDs
  • QB Chris Relf- 507 yds, 4.1 avg, 3 TDs
  • RB LaDarius Perkins- 377 yds, 5.5 avg, 3 TDs
  • RB Robert Elliot- 173 yds, 3.7 yds
  • WR Chad Bumphis- 126 yds, 7.4 yds
  • WR Michael Carr- 3 for 39 yds, 13 avg

Receiving Leaders

  • WR Chad Bumphis- 502 yds, 14.3 avg,4 TDs
  • WR Brandon Heavens- 264 yds, 17.6 avg, 2 TDs
  • WR Arceto Clark- 222 yds, 13.9, 2 TDs
  • WR Chris Smith- 9 for 87 yds, 9.7 avg
  • TE Brandon Henderson- 7 for 55 yds, 7.9 avg

Passing Leaders

  • QB Chris Relf- 926 yds, 7.12 avg, 53%, 7 TDs, 3 INTs
  • QB Tyler Russell- 555 yds, 9.25 avg, 58%, 4 TDs, 5 INTs

What are some areas that you would like to see us improve on-on Offense?

Agree or Disagree with my assessment?

Mullen’s Wednesday Quotes on the Loss of Nick Bell

“Right now we’re trying to keep our team focused and in a routine for them, that their lives can stay as normal as possible…We’ll just try to keep the team together as much as possible. So they have their coaches and their football family to help deal with it…There is no right or wrong way to feel. That routine of doing things allows you to not just sit and get lost in the emotions. It allows you to go out and do things you normally do and hopefully feel like a normal person as you try to deal with this grief…When you’re in this, you know what a ‘football family’ is and how much goes into it. And how much these players dedicate themselves to the family. It’s been a great outpouring of support from our fans, and from other coaches around the nation. Because they know how hard it can be…They knew he was sick, to see this as something that’s not a sudden accident, that they knew was there, it puts a lot of things in perspective for our players. We try to build them up to be so big, so fast, so strong, so tough, they can do everything. This ‘warrior’ we create or whatever it is. To see how precious life is, and how fast thing can change, that is something our players are dealing with. How precious life is, every day is right now, and to take advantage of every gift and day God gives them on the earth.”


______MSU & SEC News______

There will be a memorial service for Nick Bell, tomorrow at Lee Hall, at 6:30pm.

Story on MSU’s Derek Sherrod, and his NFL future. Link

Former MSU Hoopster Phil Turner suspended at Delta State. Link

Chris Low talks toughest and weakest schedules left. Link

Bama and LSU match up. Link

Did yall hear about UGA’s Def. Coordinator Todd Grantham’s ‘choke’ signal? Idiot. Link& Picture

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Details Set For Nick Bell Memorial Services

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Funeral arrangements have been set for Mississippi State sophomore defensive end Nick Bell, the family announced on Wednesday. The university will hold a memorial service at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday evening. Visitation will be held from 1-6 p.m. Friday at Robert's Funeral Home in Birmingham, and the funeral is set for 12 noon at Faith Chapel Christian Center in Birmingham. All are open to the public.

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Mississippi State’s Nick Bell, 20, Passes Away

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State redshirt sophomore defensive end Nick Bell passed away Tuesday afternoon, doctors at UAB Medical Center announced. Bell, 20, battled cancer since a diagnosis earlier this fall.

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SEC Coaches Have MSU In Their Thoughts

Wednesday is SEC coaches’ teleconference day and with the death of Nick Bell still fresh in the news, many of the league’s head coaches offered their support and prayers to the Mississippi State program and Bell’s family.

Florida’s Urban Meyer said that he and Dan Mullen texted briefly about the situation.  Tennessee’s Derek Dooley said that his team was affected because one of his Vols played with Bell in high school.  Joker Phillips’ assistant David Turner actually helped recruit Bell to MSU.  And Houston Nutt recalled dealing with two deaths on his football teams.

Kudos to Brandon Marcello of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger for gathering so many of the coaches’ comments in one spot.

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MSU Community Mourns Bell

The sudden decline and eventual death of defensive end Nick Bell caught those around the Mississippi State football program off guard.  Little more than a month ago, Bell was playing for the Bulldogs.  Less than two weeks ago, his doctors said that they hoped he could someday play football again.

But last Wednesday, Bell began to lose feeling in his right arm.  Then Thursday, doctors found a spot on his lung.  Bell’s aggressive form of cancer had spread.  Over the weekend his health declined sharply.  Brad Locke of The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal details Bell’s final days here.  Even for someone who didn’t know Bell, it’s a painful read.

“The emotional roller coaster you go through is hard to comprehend sometimes,” Dan Mullen said yesterday.  “We build these guys up to be big, fast, strong, tough.  We try to make them feel invincible, that they can accomplish and do anything in this world and then they see this situation.  It’s just a tidal wave of emotion that runs over our players.”

A large number of Mississippi State students took to The Junction last night to pay tribute to Bell.

Now the MSU football team will try to move forward through this tragedy.  That’s why Mullen held a normal practice session yesterday.

“That’s the sanctuary for our coaches, for our players, for our football family, to be on that field together doing the thing we love most, the thing I know Nick Bell loved most,” Mullen said.  “It kind of felt good to sweat out some of the feelings and emotions that are inside.”

For those who believe it’s no time to talk about football, it’s likely that Bell would disagree.  The game is just one part of players’ lives, but it’s a part that builds character and teaches lessons — some of them painful.  A game doesn’t end with a first quarter fumble or a third quarter punt block.  The teams continue playing.  In life, as much as we might want to lay down and quit in the face of tragedy, the sun rises again and eventually we struggle forward.  More joys and heartaches ahead, we keep marching on.  Just as a football team keeps taking the field.

Winning and losing isn’t important when put in proper perspective by a young man’s death.  But the game itself is important.  The game gave Bell a family that stretches all across Mississippi.  It gives his real family support from across the entire Southeastern Conference region via an MSU memorial fund.

In two weeks, the games will begin again for State’s football team.  You can be sure that his teammates will have Nick Bell on their minds.

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Remembering MSU Bulldog Nick Bell

Mississippi State
Content provided by All Things Maroon – A MSU and SEC blog.

nick_bellNick Bell’s case, was possibly one of the most sudden that I can remember. Less than 2 weeks ago, Bell was present on the MSU sideline, and seemed to be in good spirits. Little did Nick and the MSU family alike, know what would transpire over the past 2 days. Bell, underwent brain surgery on Oct. 1st, to remove a mass that had developed from a lesion which was removed on his head, just 2 years prior. Fast forward to early Monday morning, and Nick was undergoing emergency surgery. The cancer had spread into his body, and Bell’s situation had greatly worsened over the last 3 days. After Monday’s surgery, Bell fell into a coma, and was placed on life support. Bell was in uniform just 5 weeks ago, but died Tuesday at 2:20 pm. He was 20 years old.

In remembrance of Nick, I figured that I would compile all the quotes that people shared concerning Bell, and the young man that he was.

Dan Mullen: This is a tragedy for Nick’s family, our football program, our community and everyone who had the privilege to meet and be around Nick Bell. Nick was a son and a brother to our football family and I know he will continue to look over us from heaven. Nick lived his life like a champion and will always be remembered in our hearts that way. During this impossible time, we pray for Nick’s family and all those he has touched…He was an amazing kid. Coach (Matt) Balis and I were talking, he never came in having a bad day. He never came in upset, never came in with anything but a smile on his face, to go to work and to play. You see his smile and his ability to light up a room and his personality, just a great person to be around at all times. He was always someone who was going to lift his teammate’s spirits. And he loved to play the game. It’s hard to find somebody that has such a positive outlook in everything they’re doing, and he had that. He had that positive outlook of every day whether it was working out, running springs, talking about going to school, going to class, getting his degree. Things that he wanted to achieve in life. He always had a very positive outlook on all the great things he wanted to do. And I’ll say this, he accomplished a lot of that. For a 20-yard old to accomplish all the things he did in life, and impact as many people’s lives as he had, that’s pretty remarkable.”

MSU A.D. Scott Stricklin: Words can’t express our sadness. Nick was a model student-athlete – special in the classroom, on the field and to those whose lives he touched. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, his teammates and his coaches. He will be missed by the entire Mississippi State community and our athletic department family.”

MSU School President: “Nick was an outstanding young man, who proudly represented our university with character and enthusiasm in everything he did. He was an exemplary student-athlete, always giving the maximum effort on the football field and in the classroom. Nick left us too soon, and we mourn his passing, but we also celebrate the impact he made and fondly recount the many lives he touched in our Bulldog family.”

Megan Mullen (Dan’s Wife):There are few people in the world who have the unique ability to light up a room. Nick was one of those extraordinary individuals. Every single one of us in the Bulldogs football family is a better person for having Nick in our lives.”

Mike Slive- SEC Commissioner: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Mississippi State’s Nick Bell today. We join the entire MSU family in mourning the loss such of a tremendous young man.”

Mullen after Tuesday’s practice:  “Obviously this is a difficult time for our football family. Our football is hurting right now and I’ve got a lot of 18 to 22 year-olds right now learning how to deal with grief like this for the first time. Nick was a son and brother to everything in this football family. We went out today at practice in our sanctuary doing the thing we love the most, that Nick loved doing the most. It kinda felt good to sweat out the feelings and emotions inside. It was very therapeutic for our guys. We told them there’s not a right or wrong way to act or feel. I know for them doing what they love for two hours was therapeutic for a lot of guys.” nick-bell2

Video of Mullen’s address. Link

About 50 members of the MSU family visited with Nick at the UAB Medical Center, as well as Alabama DE Marcell Dareus, and Auburn LB LaDarius Owens.

Matthew Stevens of the Starkville Daily summed up Nick Bell’s career quite well: [Bell started two of the four games he played in this season, compiling seven tackles and two for a loss. In his MSU career, Bell has 22 tackles and four and a half stops for a loss. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive end played in all 12 games last year as a red-shirt freshman earning a pair of starts and recording 15 total tackles in his first season with the maroon and white. Bell was recruited to State out of Jess Lanier High in Bessemer, Ala., by the staff of former MSU head coach Sylvester Croom. Bell began his high school career at Adamsville (Ala.) Minor High School and committed to State on November 2007.]

Help for the Bell family: Mississippi State athletic department will establish a memorial fund for the Bell family through the Bulldog Club. More details will be available online at and donations can be made by calling 662-325-3074. -CL

Today we pay respect to Nick…tomorrow we’ll talk about his and our #20 MSU Bulldogs.

R.I.P. Nick Bell, you will be greatly missed.

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Death Of MSU’s Bell Has Been Confirmed

Mississippi State defensive end Nick Bell has passed away in a Birmingham hospital today.  While rumors have swirled on Twitter since this morning, the young man’s death has only recently be confirmed.

Bell had been battling a form of skin cancer.  This weekend, his health worsened and it was discovered that his cancer had spread.  A mass was removed from his brain last month.

Sadly, it was less than two weeks ago that his doctors released a statement saying that they “remain hopeful that he can return to football in the future when his treatments are completed.”  Just a horrible turn of events.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bell’s family as well as to the Mississippi State football family.

UPDATE — Dan Mullen has released a statement regarding Bell’s death.

“This is a tragedy for Nick’s family, our football program, our community and everyone who had the privilege to meet and be around Nick Bell.  Nick was a son and a brother to our football family and I know he will continue to look over us from heaven.  Nick lived his life like a champion and will always be remembered in our hearts that way.  During this impossible time, we pray for Nick’s family and all those he has touched.”

The school will set up a memorial fund for the Bell family through Mississippi State’s Bulldog Club.  More information can be found here.

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MSU’s Bell Takes “Turn For The Worse”

Bad news from the Mississippi State football family this morning.  Sophomore defensive end Nick Bell underwent emergency surgery in Birmingham yesterday after his skin cancer was found to have spread.  He was in ICU as of last night, according to The Northeast Mississippi Journal.

“He took a little turn for the worse in the past three days,” Dan Mullen said yesterday.  “We ask that everyone keeps Nick and his family in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

A large mass was removed from Bell’s brain last month.  He was expected to begin chemotherapy today, but his health worsened over the weekend.

MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin filled in for Mullen at a speaking engagement last night and told the audience that Bell was in “grave” condition and was “fighting for his life.”

Rick Cleveland of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger has much more here.

Our thoughts are with the Bell family.

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