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How will Rogers fare in post-Air Raid...

How will Rogers fare in post-Air Raid offense at Mississippi State?

By: Parrish Alford - August 30, 2023
Will Rogers

Parrish Alford previews the football season for Mississippi State, looking at strengths, uncertainties and the schedule.

There’s a new Dog in town, sort of.

Zach Arnett was a beloved defensive coordinator who was promoted to the big chair after the sudden death of coach Mike Leach last December.

Arnett was considered by many a “coach in waiting” even if he didn’t have that designation officially.

He wasted no time in putting his own stamp on the program by quickly moving away from the Air Raid offense.

Mississippi State Head Football Coach Zach Arnett

The return of a starting quarterback, especially one as accomplished as Will Rogers, is often cause for August celebration among any school’s fans.

The question surrounding Rogers is how a quarterback whose accomplishments came in such a pass-dominant system will make the adjustment to a more balanced offense under new coordinator Kevin Barbay. The Air Raid is all Rogers has known at the college level.

The guess here is that Rogers will be fine.

He’s appeared in 35 games with 32 starts. You don’t maintain that continuity in anybody’s offense without having some smarts.

Rogers will adapt in the new offense, but any balanced offense is better when the quarterback is a threat to run.

Rogers has shown little interest in running and little success when he’s reluctantly left the pocket. Don’t be surprised to see a package for Vanderbilt transfer Mike Wright. Running is much more a thing for Wright, who appeared in 26 games with 11 starts over the last two seasons. Wright was the QB of record in four of Vanderbilt’s five wins.

Barbay’s offense will use tight ends, something Leach’s never did, so Rogers will have a shiny new toy. Most quarterbacks find tight ends helpful.

MSU running backs under Leach often flashed potential with few carries. Now Jo’quavious “Woody” Marks and the mates around him will get a chance to show they can be lead dogs for the Bulldogs.

State will need to answer some questions along the offensive line.

The Bulldogs return a solid defensive nucleus with experience among its front seven particularly with linemen Nathan Pickering and Jaden Crumedy and linebackers Jett Johnson and Nathaniel Watson.

This group will need to get a consistent pass rush to aid a secondary without star cornerback Emmanuel Forbes who set the FBS career record with six interceptions returned for touchdowns.

The secondary will have to adjust, but the Bulldogs showed an ability to adjust as they twice dealt with death last season, first with teammate Sam Westmoreland then later with Leach.

Arnett rallied the team and defeated Illinois in the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa.

The bowl win came a month after his defense smothered Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.

Any program in transition has its questions, as State does with Arnett and Rogers.

The Bulldogs were building under Leach, and the guess here is promoting from within will prove to be beneficial. 

Mississippi State Season Schedule

  • Sept. 2 SE Louisiana
  • Sept. 9 Arizona
  • Sept. 16 LSU
  • Sept. 23 at South Carolina
  • Sept. 30 Alabama
  • Oct. 7 Western Michigan
  • Oct. 21 at Arkansas
  • Oct. 28 at Auburn
  • Nov. 4 Kentucky
  • Nov. 11 at Texas A&M
  • Nov. 18 Southern Miss
  • Nov. 23 Ole Miss
About the Author(s)
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Parrish Alford

Parrish Alford brings the cumulative wisdom that comes from three decades of covering Mississippi sports to Magnolia Tribune. His outstanding contributions to sports reporting in the state have twice been recognized with Sports Writer of the Year awards. Alford currently serves as the associate editor of American Family News.