9 Mississippi State football newcomers who may have to play immediately for Mike Leach

Nick Suss
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

It's never bad news when the new players are ready to play.

Mississippi State football's 2021 roster is loaded with players who were thrust into starting roles as freshmen a year ago. Quarterback Will Rogers, running back Jo'quavious Marks and wide receiver Jaden Walley led the Bulldogs in passing, rushing and receiving as freshmen in 2020 and return as leaders for 2021.

With that youthful experience, Mississippi State doesn't have too many holes in need of plugging. Still, the Bulldogs have a host of freshmen and transfers who might be called upon to play early. Below is an alphabetical list of nine newcomers whom coach Mike Leach may have to factor into his rotation early this fall.

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QB Jack Abraham

Rogers is Mississippi State's incumbent starter, but Southern Miss transfer Jack Abraham looked good in the spring. Abraham has three years of FBS starting experience and Leach has a history of letting graduate transfers lead his offense. Abraham doesn't have the prototypical size or athletic traits of an SEC quarterback, but the sixth-year senior has about as much experience as anyone in college football.

DE Deonte Anderson

Deonte Anderson is a three-star defensive end from Florida who measures 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds. As Mississippi State aims to rebuild a defensive front looking to replace Kobe Jones and Marquiss Spencer, Anderson could be one of the newcomers tasked with supplying depth and who may be deployed situationally as a pass rush specialist.

WR Jamire Calvin

Jamire Calvin caught 75 passes for 797 yards and four touchdowns in 2017 and 2018 under Leach at Washington State. He missed the 2019 season, and Washington State only played four games in 2020, but he's reunited with Leach in Starkville as a graduate transfer who will almost certainly factor in the returning receiving rotation with Walley, Malik Heath and Austin Williams.

DE Randy Charlton

A transfer from UCF, Randy Charlton logged two sacks and four tackles for loss in five games in 2020. He was a three-year contributor for the Knights and at 6-3 and 265 pounds he'll be expected to contribute immediately for the revamped Bulldogs defensive line.

DB Jalen Green

Mississippi State's secondary already boasts stars Martin Emerson, Emmanuel Forbes and Fred Peters. Now it adds Texas transfer Jalen Green. Green made 46 tackles and an interception in three seasons at Texas, playing in 30 games. Green was a four-star and top-50 recruit out of high school, according to the 247 Sports composite rankings.

WR Teddy Knox

It's no secret Leach likes to use a lot of receivers. Freshman Teddy Knox could be an option as a slot target. The 5-11 Knox starred as a receiver and return man in high school but also won the silver medal in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes at the Louisiana 1A and 2A state meets in 2019.

LB John Lewis

Linebacker John Lewis was Mississippi State's highest-rated in-state signee for 2021. A standout at Germantown, Lewis broke out with 84 tackles and 13 sacks his senior year. Lewis has the size and length to play inside or outside, making him a versatile option as Mississippi State needs an extra body in the linebacking room to replace Erroll Thompson.

WR Makai Polk

Another transfer from the Pac-12, Cal transplant Makai Polk is a 6-3, 200-pound pass catcher. In 17 games across the last two seasons, Polk caught 36 passes for 478 yards and three touchdowns. At the very least, he's depth for a talented receiver group. At the most, he's a plug-and-play receiver who helps Mississippi State attack downfield more than it could last year.

QB Sawyer Robertson

Rogers and Abraham have significantly more experience than freshman quarterback Sawyer Robertson's zero, and they both practiced with Mississippi State in the spring, which Robertson didn't. But Robertson is the highest-rated quarterback Mississippi State has signed in the 247 Sports composite rankings era and could be Leach's hand-picked option to lead Mississippi State into the future. With a good fall camp, maybe Robertson plays his way into getting some late-game reps early in the season.

Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or nsuss@gannett.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.