Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach speaks to reporters during an NCAA college football news conference at the Southeastern Conference media days, Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Mike Leach Speaks on Mississippi State Football

Mississippi State head football coach, Mike Leach, spoke at the 2022 SEC Media Days on Tuesday. His Bulldogs went a mediocre 7-6 in 2021 and he is looking for his team to improve this season. Leach is going into his third year as the head coach in Starkville and with a tough schedule in 2022, he hopes to have his best season yet.

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2022 Improvements

Leach spoke about some improvements he would like to see out of his football team in 2022. He pointed out two position groups, in particular, that he hopes will take a step forward this season.

The wide receiver position is one that the Bulldogs will need to find some new production from this season. Their leading receiver in 2021 was Makai Polk. Polk recorded over 1000 yards receiving and nine touchdowns on 105 catches last year. He had more than double the receptions as any other player did. Polk is now gone as he signed a contract with the Baltimore Ravens after he went undrafted in the 2022 NFL Draft.

With Polk out of the picture, quarterback Will Rogers will need to find a new top target in Mississippi State’s pass-first offense.

On the defensive side, the secondary definitely has room for improvement. In 2021, the Bulldogs intercepted just eleven passes total. Cornerback Emmanuel Forbes led the team in this stat with three INTs. Another player that will play a big role in their secondary is Collin Duncan. Leach was asked about Duncan’s play and what he sees in his fourth-year safety.

Leach will look for a step forward from Forbes and Duncan, along with the rest of his secondary as they attempt to force more turnovers to get their high-powered offense on the field more often.

Tough Conference Schedule

While Leach and the Bulldogs are looking to improve on their 7-6 record from last season, it won’t be easy. Mississippi State faces one of the toughest schedules in the country in 2022. They go against LSU in Death Valley, Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and Ole Miss in Oxford. They also have to face Auburn, Georgia and Texas A&M at home.

Leach spoke about the defending national champion, Georgia Bulldogs, and the rest of their very tough SEC schedule.

Mississippi State marched into College Station in 2021 and handed Texas A&M their only home loss of the season. This was the Bulldogs’ first victory over the Aggies since 2018.  Leach has an 8-4 record all time as a head coach against A&M, dating back to his days at Texas Tech. He knows it is tough to go into Kyle Field and get the job done but he’s not afraid of the challenge.

“Kyle Field is a tremendous place to play. Beating a quality team like the Aggies is tough under the best of circumstances and it’s a significant accomplishment.”

College Football Landscape

The college football world is going through drastic changes. With NIL deals and the realignment of conferences, many are worried about the state of the sport. However, many others feel like this sort of change is good for football, and college football in particular. Leach gave his opinion on the landscape of college football right now.

While Leach did not say he thinks all this change in college football is bad for the sport, he did not seem to take to it well. He said that because of all the NIL deals going on, college athletes are becoming much more “privileged.”

“Being a professional is not all privilege and no responsibility.”

Countdown to Kickoff

Mississippi State kicks off their 2022 season in just over a month. They will play their first game on September 3rd against Memphis in Starkville. With Coach Leach looking for his team to improve on what was a disappointing season in 2021, the Bulldogs are hungry for a victory in Week 1.

About Hugh Green

Hugh is a second year student majoring in Journalism: Sports and Media at the University of Florida.

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