Why Mississippi State's wide receiving corps could be much better this season
STARKVILLE – A Band-Aid is used when a wound needs to heal, when the body needs to get better. It's defined as a "temporary solution."
Mississippi State senior wide receiver Deddrick Thomas probably didn't have that in mind when asked about graduate transfer Isaiah Zuber on Monday, but his comment created a metaphor that might have a great deal of truth to it.
"He's like a Band-Aid," Thomas said of Zuber. "You can put him anywhere and he'll look good."
If Mississippi State's passing offense — one that ranked No. 13 out of 14 schools in the Southeastern Conference last season and No. 112 out of 130 in the FBS — is the wound, then perhaps Thomas is right. Zuber could be the Band-Aid that prevents the Bulldog aerial attack from bleeding any further.
Or one of the Band-Aids, at least.
Mississippi State's passing woes were so profound in 2018 that it will take more than just a single Band-Aid to patch those problems up. In addition to Zuber, enter junior college transfer JaVonta Payton at the wide receiver position. Another Band-Aid, if you will.
Junior quarterback Keytaon Thompson said he likes what he's seen out of both Zuber and Payton in the early stages of training camp.
"They're really explosive," Thompson said. "They make plays. They're great at catching the ball away from their body. I can't wait to see what they can do in the passing game."
Zuber, a 6-foot, 190-pound slot receiver, transferred from Kansas State in May. He caught 52 passes for 619 yards and five touchdowns for the Wildcats last season. He was the leader on the team in all three of those categories.
Payton, 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, was the No. 3 junior college wide receiver coming out of Northwest Community College, even though he had what could be considered a down year with 23 catches for 331 yards and two touchdowns.
Zuber and Payton add to a Mississippi State wide receiver corps that struggled mightily a season ago. Based on the team's first few practices of training camp, the starters are projected to be three guys who all wore maroon and white in 2018: Thomas, senior Stephen Guidry and junior Osirus Mitchell.
That trio represented Mississippi State's top three receivers in terms of yards, but all together they only had 1,123. Zuber had over half of that total on his own in an offense that ranked 116th in the FBS in passing yards. Mitchell and Guidry also struggled with dropped passes, but Zuber seems as sure-handed as they come.
It's only fitting that the players who have been around long enough to know the system are slated as the current starters, but guys like Zuber and Payton didn't choose to complete their collegiate eligibility at Mississippi State just to stand on the sidelines. They came to Starkville to compete for playing time, and in an offense that's desperate to improve drastically year-over-year, they shouldn't have an issue doing so.
Graduate transfer quarterback Tommy Stevens said no matter who he's throwing to on the field, he's confident that there will not be a shortage of big passing plays this season.
"It's a great group, a great group," Stevens said of the receivers. "Just as talented as anybody that I've been around. I'm really excited to progress with them through the rest of fall camp and into the season."
Mississippi State football:'Experienced' Tommy Stevens feels like veteran with team