STARKVILLE – Suspensions remain a sore but ongoing subject of conversation at Mississippi State.
As most of you are aware by now, the Bulldogs had 10 football players and one men’s basketball player suspended for academic misconduct involving a part-time tutor and an online chemistry class.
Although federal law prevents MSU or the NCAA from releasing the names of the student-athletes involved, it’s pretty easy to identify several of them based on the suspensions they’ve served to date.
On the football side of things, half of the players suspended are on the Bulldogs’ two-deep depth chart. Senior defensive tackle Lee Autry, junior linebacker Willie Gay Jr., sophomore wide receiver Devonta Jason, sophomore safety Marcus Murphy and redshirt freshman offensive tackle Kwatrivous Johnson have all missed multiple games for a “violation of team rules”. Autry and Gay are both listed as starters and of that group, Autry is the only one to appear in two games this year.
“It happened and it’s unfortunate,” said MSU coach Joe Moorhead. “There’s choices and consequences but we’re doing our dangdest as a coaching staff to make sure that it’s not a distraction and the guys that are available on a given week, we’re going to fight like hell to get them ready and well prepared. We’ll take the field with who’s available and do our best to be 1-0 on a weekly basis but it’s incredibly challenging.”
The Bulldogs have only been at full strength from a suspension standpoint once this season, a 28-13 win over Kentucky. If the internet rumors are true, most of those players only have three games of eligibility remaining during the regular season and Autry only has two more since he also started in the Southern Miss win.
If there is a silver lining with this situation, it’s that State gets to pick and choose which games these players are suspended and which ones they’ll suit up in. If I were in Moorhead’s shoes, this weekend’s game against Tennessee would be one of the three I’d be at full strength in along with the Arkansas and Ole Miss games.
Why those three? Because those are all games the Bulldogs are favored in and should win. Even at full strength, it isn’t likely Mississippi State will beat LSU or Alabama and won’t be picked to prevail at Texas A&M either.
The Bulldogs should be able to get by FCS opponent Abeline Christian with ease and if they handle their business against Tennessee, Arkansas and Ole Miss then they’ll be 7-5 and on their way to a bowl game for the 10th consecutive year.
We will likely never know how good this MSU team could’ve been this season due to those suspensions but the Bulldogs are trying to make the best out of a bad situation.
Logan Lowery (logan.lowery @journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Journal. Read more at Djournal.com.