Sizing up Gators’ 2018 SEC opponents: Scouting Mississippi State

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Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead speaks during Southeastern Conference Media Days Wednesday, July 18, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Mississippi State

The game: Sept. 29, in Starkville.

Last year’s result: The Gators haven’t played the Bulldogs since 2010. UF lost that game 10-7 in The Swamp.

Key players returning: QB Nick Fitzgerald (1,782 yards passing and 15 touchdowns in 2017), DT Jeffery Simmons, RB Aeris Williams (1,107 yards rushing in 2017), DE Montez Sweat, OG Darryl Williams, S Johnathan Abram.

Key losses: CB Tolando Cleveland, P Logan Cooke, WR Donald Gray, LB Dez Harris, OT Martinas Rankin.

Scouting the offense: Joe Moorhead, an offensive-minded head coach, should thank Dan Mullen for all the talent he’s left him to work with. Nine starters, including standout dual-threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, return, along with 1,000-yard rusher Aeris Williams. Fitzgerald and Williams will be operating behind one of the SEC’s best offensive lines that features four returning starters. The Bulldogs may have solved a potential deficiency by signing Stephen Guidry, the nation’s No. 1 JUCO wide receiver.

Scouting the defense: If this is a line of scrimmage league (it is), then the Bulldogs are in great shape. All four starters return to a front that features two elite players in tackle Jeffery Simmons and end Montez Sweat. Simmons is a dominant inside player, while Sweat is a relentless outside rusher who recorded 10.5 sacks last season. This is a front that really gets after it, and it will have to this season because the Bulldogs are replacing all three linebackers and the starting cornerbacks from last season.

Scouting the special teams: The Bulldogs are set at kicker, where Jace Christmann returns after converting 12 of 14 field-goal attempts last season. Replacing standout punter Logan Cooke is a concern, although untested sophomore Tucker Day was a high school All-American.

Quotable

“Our goals for the season, certainly we want to perform at a championship standard every single day on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Our goal is to be the best Power Five team in the state, to be the best team in the SEC, and ultimately compete to be the best team in the country.” — Joe Moorhead

 

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