As the Bulldogs welcome new starters all over the offense, the receivers received the most experience. Two junior college guys signed with Mississippi State to bolster the position. Some returning players and some a freshmen hope to solidify the Bulldog receiving corps.
Omarr Conner has been leading the group so far. He leads all the drills. He is losing weight and is no doubt the leader of the group. He is trying to take on the role as playmaker. Conner also is fighting for return position. He is getting his swagger back day by day.
Will Prosser is Mr. Consistent. He catches everything that is thrown at him. He is still battling some nagging injuries. Coach Holliday calls him "sunshine," from Remember the Titans. Prosser and Conner are no doubt the two leaders in the receiving corps. You can always find Prosser getting the new guys in the right position and helping.
"Omarr and Will are both having good camps. We just have to keep them healthy and get them to the game. They are going to be an important part of this offense. Will has a role here and he has been Mr. Consistent. He's having his best camp since I've been here," Holliday commented.
Joey Sanders started on the second team, but after two practices, he was back in a maroon jersey. This Sanders' second year in the offense and expect him to get a lot of balls in the middle of the field, if it gets spreaded around enough. He is too quick for a linebacker and has the size to battle with safeties. He is very patient and has the consistent hands you need for a guy that will work the slot.
"Joey is coming along," Holliday said. "We have carved a nitch for him putting him inside where we can match up his size with linebackers and safeties. He did not do too well on the outside, so we switched his role in the offense. He has been working hard at it. He has always been aggressive in his run blocking. He brings a physical mentality to the game."
Lance Long is no doubt the best route runner on the team, but his mental aspect of the game is what sets him apart. He has been consistent catching balls and making the right decisions. He has the ability to cut on a dime and change directions quickly. He has soft hands and always catches the ball cleanly.
"Lance is doing well," Holliday continued. "You can find all the reasons not to play Lance. You can say physically he is too short; he is not as fast as the other guys are, but all he does is make plays. He is so reliable and his work ethic is great. If it was game day, Lance would get over half of the snaps at flanker."
Tyler Threadgill and Keon Humphries seem to be similar in stature and abilities. Coach Croom and his staff are planning to utilize their speed more this year. Humphries seems to run better routes, but Threadgill's speed and quickness could be hard to keep off the field. Threadgill's lack of focus is the only thing that will keep him off the field. When he is focused, it is hard to stop him.
"Threadgill had a rough couple of days and kind of fell back, but he's got such good physical tools," Holliday explained. "We have to get him consistent mentally as far as accepting the challenge to get better everyday and not backing down. He gets down on himself sometimes. Football is more of a mental game than physical game than we realize. He definitely has the physical tools; Threadgill is going to be alright. Camp is a long time and the heat and anxiety takes its toll on different players differently."
Tony Burks is a tall lanky receiver with excellent hands. He still has some room to fill out a little more and put on some weight, only if he can keep his speed. He weighs around 215 pounds. He looks very natural catching the ball, but he is not as physical as you would like from a big receiver. While running long routes, he looks graceful and makes catches look easy. He has a great vertical and can go up and fight for the ball.
"Tony Burks is going to be a good player for us,"Holliday stated. "He is still learning how to work our way. He is learning how to finish plays. You can see at different times the plays he's capable of making. He is not in receiver shape right now; it is a big difference between running shape and receiver shape. The way we practice and run you have to be in receiver shape and he's getting there."
Ryan Mason came in from a JUCO, but is still very raw with his game. He has all the physical tools. His weight fluctuates from 215 to 220 pounds. He loves the deep ball, but the short game is where he needs work. He is learning how to make cuts and the proper footwork in running routes. He could make a lot of plays on physical ability alone. He may be the most physically gifted out of the receiving unit at 6-foot-5.
"Ryan Mason is raw in some areas and we're working on that," Holliday said. "We have to get his footwork a little better and he has to be more consistent. Both of the JUCO guys are getting better and better as they develop confidence in what they are doing. We are only four or five days in so those guys have some time to hone their skills before game time."
Keith Mills is a former basketball player that grew into playing football. The first couple of days of camp Mills was lost. Since then the freshmen has continued to improve. He still needs to improve his route running and understanding of the game, but he is learning on the run. He has been working hard and looks to grow into the position. When he is focused, he catches the ball well, but is still learning the offense. Mills could make an impact this year, but it depends on if he can handle the mental aspects of playing SEC football.
"The biggest surprise in camp so far has got to be Keith Mills," Holliday commented on the newcomer. "He really has some physical tools that we can use. You would always like to redshirt freshmen, but every now and then you find a guy if he can handle the grid mentally, that he could contribute as a freshmen. He's as good as I've had here as a true freshmen."
Aubrey Bell is unique type of player. He might be the most versatile of the whole group. He might be in for a switch in the near future, because of his size. At 6-foot-4, 223 pounds, he might be moved into the slot to exploit his size and physical abilities. He has big hands and catches the ball with ease. He could also be used on the outside against smaller cornerbacks in jump ball situations.
Mississippi State could create some match up problems this year. The Bulldogs could line up five receivers 6-foot-3 or taller. Mississippi State also welcomes some speed with the likes of Threadgill and Humphries. This could be a logjam position for the Bulldogs, but could arguably be most improving group overall on the team. Coach Holliday has at least ten guys that could contribute this fall. The Bulldogs like to travel with eight receivers and play six. This is no doubt the most talent that Coach Holliday has encountered in his tenure here. Expect the battle for a spot in the rotation to heat up as camp goes on.
Sleeper: Keith Mills
Playmaker: Omarr Conner