What to know coming out of MSU football's spring game

A few quick takeaways after the annual Maroon-White contest
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So a lot went down this past weekend.

While much attention was being given to the instate baseball showdown going on at Dudy Noble Field between Mississippi State and Ole Miss, the football Bulldogs were busy inside Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday, putting a de facto exclamation point on their spring work in the annual Maroon-White game.

No one could blame you if you missed something on the gridiron. But fear not, Cowbell Corner has you covered. Let's take a quick look at a few things you should know coming out of MSU's spring football game.

Mike Leach wasn't happy

It didn't take Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach long to let reporters know he wasn't exactly thrilled with how the Bulldogs performed on Saturday.

"I didn’t think we had particularly good energy," Leach said in response to the first question he got post-scrimmage. "We didn’t necessarily execute enough on offense that the defense was challenged much. But I didn’t think they ran to the ball particularly well.

"A good scrimmage you can hear. You don’t even have to see. You’re able to hear it because you hear pads hit and stuff like that. This particular scrimmage you wouldn’t have heard much.”

Yes, it was just one day. And to MSU's credit, Leach later added Saturday was one of only a couple of practices all spring he thought was at or below average from a performance standpoint. But the Bulldogs didn't exactly put the cherry on top of spring workouts for their head coach on Saturday. Of course they'll have a chance to rectify that a bit as MSU actually still has one more spring practice remaining, this coming Tuesday.

The QB job is wide open

You can believe it or not, but from the mouth of Leach, the quarterback job is by no means settled. Judging by the number of repetitions given Saturday, it's primarily a two-man race between incumbent starter Will Rogers and transfer Jack Abraham, and those two will apparently head into the offseason each with a chance to be the guy come this fall.

"I think the quarterback position is wide-open," Leach said. "We channeled more reps to Will because he was performing better early (this spring). But whoever can move the ball downfield the best is in the end going to be the quarterback here.”

It seems fair to guess Rogers has to be considered the ultimate favorite to be behind center come September. But Leach's method of leaving things open-ended should seemingly keep the competition hot and heavy in the coming months between Rogers, Abraham, Chance Lovertich, Daniel Greek and, come this fall, highly-touted freshman Sawyer Robertson once he gets to campus.

Jaden Walley was hurt, but may have dodged a bullet

By now you're probably aware MSU receiver Jaden Walley went down with an injury early on in Saturday's spring game. Last year's breakout freshman was hurt while blocking on a running play when his leg got curled up beneath another Bulldog.

Walley was helped from the field and he was putting no weight on his right leg. He didn't return.

Post-scrimmage, Leach provided no update, other than to sarcastically say that Walley was 100 percent healthy. Leach was keeping with his modus operandi of not disclosing injury information almost ever. However by late Saturday, the news was at least somewhat good concerning Walley.

Robbie Faulk of 247Sports reported that, per Walley's mother, Walley had suffered a sprained MCL – not ideal news for MSU obviously, but not quite a crushing blow either. Oh, and Walley was apparently styling and profiling after getting treated too:

Dillon Johnson looks like a budding star

In three scrimmages this spring, maybe no Bulldog has stood out more than running back Dillon Johnson. He kept on keeping on this past Saturday as he rushed for 49 yards and had 64 yards receiving. 

He's a powerful runner. He can make tacklers miss. He can get extra yardage when it seems a play is over. He has really started to look like someone that's about to be a major weapon in Leach's Air Raid arsenal.

"I just feel more comfortable in the system now," Johnson said. "Last year was my first year in the system and we were just trying to balance it out. At the end of the year we started balancing it out and now I feel good with the system."

Defense is full of playmakers

Until the games start in the fall, there are no certainties, but it sure looks like MSU defensive coordinator Zach Arnett is going to have even more tools at his disposal this season than last, when he outperformed virtually all expectations despite depth issues.

Transfer Jalen Green looks like an instant-impact defensive back. He had five tackles, a couple of tackles for loss and a fumble return for a touchdown on Saturday. Linebacker Aaron Brule was all around the football, as he usually is. Emmanuel Forbes continues to be a pick machine as he nabbed an interception. Jaden Crumedy, Tyrus Wheat, Nathan Pickering and Jevon Banks all had at least one sack.

None of this is to even mention solid days for guys expected to be backups in the year ahead. Again, it's way too early to make any grand projections, but early returns seem to indicate MSU might be salty on the defensive side once again in 2021.

"To be honest, people don't understand how good our defense is," Johnson said.

Mississippi State hit the field for the Maroon-White spring game this past Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Mississippi State athletics)

Mississippi State hit the field for the Maroon-White spring game this past Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Mississippi State athletics)

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