The Mississippi State Bulldogs are coming off their third straight winning season, which is their longest run of success since Jackie Sherrill was the coach and led the Bulldogs to four straight winning seasons from 1997 – 2000. The good news for MSU: quarterback Tyler Russell returns in 2013 after being one of the most improved quarterbacks in the SEC last season. The bad news: Everyone he threw to last year is gone.
That’s where rising junior Robert Johnson comes in. Johnson played in all 13 games last season, but only caught 17 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. He was stuck in the shadow of the Bulldogs’ top receivers Chad Bumphis, Chris Smith and Arceto Clark last season, but with their departure, Johnson will have his opportunity to shine.
At 6-foot-1, 220-pounds, Johnson has the size to be a No. 1 receiver and be a nice big target for Russell down the field. He has to prove to coaches this spring that he has that next level to be the go-to guy in their passing game and has more to offer than just being a serviceable backup. He will need to make the most of his reps in spring practice to build chemistry with Russell and show that he can get open and make the tough catches in traffic.
He will have some competition to push him, however. Junior college transfer Jeremy Chappelle looks to be his top competition for the No. 1 receiver spot and sophomore Joe Morrow will be pushing for looks as well. Next fall, the Bulldogs will also add freshman Fred Ross who will likely work his way into the rotation when he gets onto campus.
But for now, the top spot is Johnson’s for the taking. He is the leading returning receiver for Mississippi State and will get every opportunity to show he’s the man for the job. If he can secure it, expect big things from Johnson in 2013 in the Bulldogs’ passing attack.