STARKVILLE — The message from Mississippi State receivers coach Angelo Mirando is consistent: His players have work to do.
Entering the fourth week of the season, tailbacks Vick Ballard and LaDarius Perkins lead the Bulldogs in receptions.
“Let’s get this straight, everybody needs to continue to work,” Mirando said. “We got a lot of work to do, but that’s everywhere. If we’re satisfied with whatever we’ve done the first three weeks then we need to get our heads checked.”
Through three games last year, MSU quarterback Chris Relf had just 261 passing yards. Despite doubling that number in 2011, the Bulldogs’ passing game seems a touch off from hitting on all cylinders.
“We just have to be cleaner,” MSU coach Dan Mullen said. “We’re not missing on every throw, we’re just missing a couple deep throws here and there and holding the ball a little bit too long last week.”
Redshirt freshman Jameon Lewis leads wide receivers with 116 yards. He is tied with Chad Bumphis and former West Point High School standout Michael Carr with five catches.
Lewis, a 5-foot-8 athlete who is a weapon in the return game on special teams, has one reception for 3 yards in the past two Southeastern Conference games.
“What people don’t understand is every player has a responsibility that doesn’t show up on a stat sheet,” Mirando said. “If a guy has to go block the (strong-side linebacker) then we grade that out and our guys are grading out fairly well. That’s what I worry about. I don’t worry about stats. That doesn’t mean anything to me. Wins and losses mean something to me.”
Mirando, who earned his job last season while tutoring the position group during preparations for the Gator Bowl against the University of Michigan, said the passing game will rely on juniors Bumphis, Arceto Clark, Chris Smith, and Brandon Heavens to provide a spark against a Louisiana Tech team that is in the lower half of the NCAA in pass defense.
“They’re the old heads,” Mirando said. “They’ve been here going on three years and they know what’s going on mentally, and now it needs to show up on the field. When a play is there, go make it. Go make it. Earn your scholarship.”
Mullen happy with punter’s consistency
Baker Swedenburg isn’t leading the conference in any punting
categories, but Mullen couldn’t be more satisfied with the consistency of the Heritage Academy graduate, who is in his first season after redshirting in 2009 and not seeing any game action in 2010.
Swendenburg, who is averaging 39.3 yards per punt, has placed seven of his 17 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard-line. Only one of his kicks has gone for a touchback.
“We’ve done a good job in the field position game and pinning teams deep inside their territory,” Mullen said. “I think he would like bigger plays, like when we need 60- to 70-yard punts and all of a sudden he booms one. More important than that, and he knows this, I want a consistent punt more than a big one and a bad one. I want consistency, and he’s done a good job of doing that.”
ESPN.com rated Swendenburg as the third-best punter in the country out of high school nearly four years. He was the starting punter his sophomore season when the Patriots finished second in the state in the Mississippi Private Schools Association, which is now known at the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools.
Status for Carmon and Chris Hughes unclear
Mullen didn’t provide an answer Tuesday when asked if injured offensive tackle James Carmon and linebacker Chris Hughes would play against Louisiana Tech.
“We’ll see Saturday,” Mullen said.
Mullen said Carmon, who missed the game Thursday against LSU after suffering a knee injury in a 41-34 loss at Auburn University on Sept. 10, was practicing this week, but he wasn’t letting the 320-pounder fully participate in the two-hour workout.
Mullen said earlier in the week Carmon is expected to be active for Saturday’s game, but he said Carmon will be “limited” in practice leading up to the contest.
Hughes, who has been inactive for the first three weeks of the season, was one of five players who served a season-opening suspension in the game against the University of Memphis. The sophomore linebacker from Mobile, Ala., is the only one of the five suspended not to play this season.