October 10, 2017 10:36:49 AM
STARKVILLE -- The emergency situation called for Greg Eiland. With some more time to plan, Mississippi State could go elsewhere.
When MSU left tackle Martinas Rankin went down in the loss to Auburn, freshman Eiland was thrown into the mix and played nearly the entire game. With Rankin still questionable after the bye week, MSU (3-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) might go with another combination as it hosts BYU (1-5) 11 a.m. Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium.
"We have some flexibility and the ability to move some guys around," MSU head coach Dan Mullen said. "(Starting center) Elgton (Jenkins)'s played out there before, there's a guy at center you can move out to tackle. Obviously, though, that's a part of our team where we only have one senior and we want to take some time to develop depth and injuries are not allowing us to do that."
If Eiland is the one at left tackle against BYU, that would give MSU freshmen at both tackle spots: Stewart Reese has started every game thus far at right tackle. If MSU elects to move Jenkins to left tackle, Harrison Moon is listed as the backup center; he's seen significant time in blowouts wins against Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech.
No matter what the combination is, quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has seen a unit prepared for whatever they're asked to do.
"They're young, but they're saying it's go time now, it's time to play, it's time to step up," he said. "With the bye week last week they got a lot of reps, a lot of time to work on that chemistry."
The wait-and-see game for wide receiver Malik Dear may be over: Mullen said MSU will most likely redshirt the wide receiver. Dear has not played this season after injuring his knee in the spring, but Mullen refused to rule him out at the time or at any other point this season, in hopes that he could recover enough to play.
Mullen said MSU was leaning toward a redshirt Monday, but did say he had yet to meet with Dear on the matter.
The Dear loss is offset by the return of senior wide receiver Gabe Myles, who has missed MSU's last three games with a foot injury. Linebacker Traver Jung is also back, Mullen said; the status of Rankin and defensive tackle Cory Thomas remain unknown.
Big week for Couch, Todd
The bye week of opportunities may have presented the biggest ones to a pair of underclassmen wide receivers: sophomore Jamal Couch and freshman Reggie Todd.
The two have been understated portions of MSU's passing game thus far, Todd with five catches and Couch with three and only one touchdown between the two, scored by Couch. They were given the opportunity to change that last week: Mullen said they would practice as first-team wide receivers in the bye week.
"I thought they had a really good approach to practice, working hard," Mullen said. "As young players, they can't be, 'Hey, for a couple of days I did good, so I'm OK now.' It's a long, hard journey and path to success, and we see them continue to grind, continue to improve and continue to grow up that ladder, both of them. It's good to see them continue on that path.
"Both guys were a little raw coming out of high school. Both guys have a lot of talent and ability, it just takes work to understand how to be an every down wide receiver."
Former MSU running back Anthony "Boobie" Dixon has noticed the latest trend in college football. Now he wants to get Mullen in on it.
Teams throughout the nation have gotten into using a traveling trophy of sorts as a motivator for forcing turnovers. Alabama has a customized championship belt awarded the player that forces a turnover, who holds it until the next turnover is forced and he takes possession; Miami has done the same thing with a gold chain with a massive U logo on it.
Dixon tweeted at Mullen the suggestion of a big cowbell chain for MSU's version of it; defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons noticed the tweet and seemed to like the idea.
Both will have to keep waiting.
"That's cool," Mullen said. "Nothing on that yet for us."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter, @Brett_Hudson
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