Looking Into Each Player Who Was a First-Time Starter for Mississippi State in 2020

Several players started the first game of their career with the Bulldogs last season.
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Mississippi State had an up-and-down season last year that saw the Bulldogs finish out with an overall record of 4-7 (regular season and postseason combined).

Every team faced a great deal of adversity last year, but MSU suffered more than most programs under the circumstances. The team was implementing a new scheme under new coaches, essentially over Zoom in the midst of a COVID offseason.

Outside of this unconventional method of learning concepts, the Bulldogs were also one of the youngest teams in the Southeastern Conference -- and they still are.

When asked on SEC Media Days if there was a "smoking gun to last year's struggles," Leach didn't pin down anything specific.

"As far as a smoking gun, you're always trying to improve,' he said. "One way to improve, at least in our case, is to get older. Rather than be one of the youngest teams in the BCS, I think the youngest, get older. But I was very proud of our team and the way they competed and improved as the season went on."

In 2020, Mississippi State had 26 players start the first game of their career. Some of those players are no longer with the program, while the majority will return to continue improvement in the 2021 season.

Here's a look at each of those players, and their final stat line for the 2020 season.

* - represents player no longer at MSU

1. LB Aaron Brule

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76 total tackles (30 solo), four sacks, three passes defended, one fumble recovery.

2. S Londyn Craft

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57 total tackles (30 solo), one pass defense, one fumble recovery.

3. OL Charles Cross 

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4. WR Brad Cumbest

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Two receptions, 12 yards, one touchdown.

5. OL Brandon Cunningham*

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6. S Collin Duncan

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46 total tackles (20 solo), four passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble.

7. CB Emmanuel Forbes

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44 total tackles (23 solo), six passes defended, five interceptions, three touchdowns.

8. CB Esaias Furdge

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14 total tackles (11 solo), one fumble recovery, one interception.

9. WR Lideatrick Griffin

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10 receptions, 61 yards, one touchdown.

10. S Landon Guidry

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12 total tackles (eight solo).

11. WR Malik Heath

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37 receptions, 307 yards, three touchdowns.

12. OL James Jackson*

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13. S Jay Jimison

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Five total tackles (two solo), two passes defensed.

14. RB Dillon Johnson

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51 carries, 225 yards, four rushing touchdowns. 36 receptions, 157 receiving yards.

15. OL Kwatrivous Johnson

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16. OL Kameron Jones

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17. RB Jo’quavious Marks

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70 carries, 312 rushing yards, three touchdowns. 60 receptions, 268 receiving yards.

18. DE Aaron Odom

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18 total tackles (eight solo), two sacks, one pass defended.

19. S Fred Peters

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20 total tackles (10 solo), one pass defended, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery.

20. QB Will Rogers

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239-of-346 passing (69.1%), 1,976 passing yards, 11 passing touchdowns, seven interceptions. One rushing touchdown.

21. WR Tyrell Shavers*

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Nine receptions, 107 yards, one touchdown.

22. OL Cole Smith

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23. WR Jaden Walley

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52 receptions, 718 yards, two touchdowns.

24. LB Nathaniel Watson

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39 total tackles (15 solo), one pass defensed.

25. LB Tyrus Wheat

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30 total tackles (12 solo), five sacks, two passes defended, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one interception.

26. RB Lee Witherspoon*

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Six carries, 35 yards. Nine receptions, 49 yards.