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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

New faces shine in Maroon & White Game

Jacob Follin | The Reflector

This year’s annual Maroon & White game gave Bulldog fans a first glance at what the makeup for next year’s squad may look like in come August. The white team, lead by the likes of Dontavian Lee and backup quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, were able to defeat the Maroon team 28-24, in front of 21,500 fans in Davis Wade Stadium. 

Head Coach Dan Mullen expressed his appreciation for the spectators that came out for the game and was pleased  with the day’s proceedings.  

“I think we had a great crowd here today,” Dan Mullen said. “That is what is so important to us, putting players in a game situation and seeing how they handle it. This is a different type of pressure, and it is good to have those guys experience that.”

Last season’s breakout star quarterback, Dak Prescott only played the first half, but while his time on the field was short, his impact on it was certainly felt by the opposing white defense. 

Prescott compiled 231 yards through the air while completing 68 percent of his passes for the day. He also threw three touchdown passes with no interceptions, making his afternoon overall a successful one. 

After the conclusion of the game, Prescott said he approved the team’s current standings and discussed his role as a leader.

“Everything was good overall, and I feel like everyone got better,” Prescott said. “I led the other guys, but I also made sure they led. I really feel like we are in the right position we need to be in at this point.”

Prescott will enter the season touted as a Heisman hopeful. After last season saw him finish 8th, and even with all of the heightened expectations going into his senior season, one unit on the team that will need to step up and help Prescott will be the newly revamped offensive line. The team lost three of its starters last season, and the status of the offensive line may be the most pressing issue facing the Bulldogs going into next season.

The senior signal caller also said he felt this year’s defensive line has the potential to be just as good as last season’s.

“I think they have come a long way. Communication-wise, they are just as good as our offensive line as last year and athletically their experience is going to come along in fall camp.”

The game would serve to highlight  names that may be unfamiliar to most Bulldog fans, but  could very well be starting in key spots for MSU when the season kicks off next fall. 

One position that will experience competition among various players is the starting running back spot, which was left vacant after last year’s starter Josh Robinson declared for the NFL Draft. 

Many expect to see Ashton Shumpert and Brandon Holloway go wire to wire all throughout the summer for the rights to be the starter, but freshman Dontavian Lee turned some heads on Saturday with his performance. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound freshman running back would lead all rushers with 53 yards on the ground and a touchdown.

Mullen would go on to say after the game that none of the backs took themselves out of the race. 

“The biggest thing to me is no one put themselves out of position,” Mullen said. “No one has earned a spot, but we have a long training camp to go where guys can continue to learn and improve. I think we are a young unit, and I think the guys have the intensity and the work ethic they need to be successful.”

With last year’s starting Middle Linebacker and All-SEC standout Benardrick McKinney choosing to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft, the importance of finding himself is at the top of the Bulldog’s offseason plans. 

Freshman Gerri Green, a player coach Mullen has been touting since last season, played well on Saturday, recording an interception and seven tackles. Overall, he was happy with his performance in the Spring game, pointing to his interception as a big moment for him.

“I think I played pretty well,” Green said, a 6-foot-4, 230-pounder. “It was fun to get out there and play in front of a big crowd. That was my first interception in a few years, so it felt great.” 

As Green continues to flash his potential, head coach Dan Mullen was asked after the game whether he thought Green is the player most likely to take McKinney’s spot on defense, to which he responded with very high praise for Green.

“I think he may even be ahead of that,” Mullen said. “Benardrick was a great player for this program, but he didn’t look this good as a freshman.” 

One last player that showed promise in the eyes of many on Saturday was defensive end A.J Jefferson. Jefferson should be poised to make the jump to starter on the defensive line this year, and there were a few instances where he was able to show bulldog fans just how much of a force he could be. 

Jefferson would discuss the possibility of just how good he thinks the defensive line could be once everything comes together.

“Our whole mentality is to be better than we were last year,” Jefferson said. “We lost a lot of guys but we still got a lot of good guys coming back. We still have guys coming in.”

Even after taking the nation by storm last fall, and being good enough to get invited to The Orange Bowl in January, some on the team still feel as if they are not getting the respect  they deserve from many around country. 

During a media conference Prescott said  he felt the doubt was all the more reason to come out an duplicate the success from last year.

“I think people still doubt us,” Prescott said. “It’s like they don’t believe we can do it again, even though they saw us do it last year.”

“ All we can do is work hard and go out to have another season like that one. I think we can be even better next year, but we have to prove it.” 

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New faces shine in Maroon & White Game