Today I’ll do the same as yesterday and go through the defense and give each position a grade in relation to last year. At each position, are we upgrading, downgrading, or staying the same? Again, I’m doing some assuming on who the starters may be.
DE Denico Autry (UPGRADE)- Last year as a Juco transfer Denico had to adjust to the speed of the SEC. It definitely took some time but he played his best ball at the end of the year finishing with 4 sacks. This year he will significantly improve those numbers.
DE Preston Smith (UPGRADE)– This is the biggest personnel upgrade on the entire team. Eulls was the starter and got the bulk of the reps and had 0 sacks last year. In limited opportunities, Preston led the team with 4.5 sacks. Looking for a big production increase here.
DT PJ Jones (SAME)- For the sake of argument, I’m putting PJ against Josh Boyd’s DT spot from last year. I think PJ has a really solid year and we see no drop off from Boyd (an NFL draftee) to Jones.
DT Kaleb Eulls (SAME)- For the sake of argument, I’m matching Kaleb against Dewayne Cherrington’s spot from last year. I’m sure many will disagree but their stats are almost identical last year. Eulls had 28 tackles, Cherry had 24, and both had 1 TFL. I think Kaleb has the much higher ceiling but its time for him to produce on the field.
LB Deonte Skinner (SAME)- The reason I say “same” is because his production has been steady for 2 years. He had 69 tackles in ’11 and 62 in ’12. I think there is potential for more production but again, we’ll have to see it.
LB Benardrick McKinney (UPGRADE)- This was an easy one to me. As a freshman he had 102 tackles and received freshman All-American honors. With a year of experience under his belt, I think he gives us more.
LB Matt Wells (UPGRADE)- I think Wells will have a significant spike in production due to new DC Geoff Colin’s scheme. Wells was grossly misused in Wilson’s read and react. He will play much more to his strengths this year, which are attacking and blitzing.
CB Justin Cox (SAME)– For me to rate Justin as “same” taking over for Jonathon Banks tells you how I feel about him. I think scheme will help him make the adjustment easier and he will make the transition seamlessly.
CB Will Redmond (DOWNGRADE)- This one could just as easily be Cedric Jiles but the rating would be the same. I think both guys will be really good players for MSU but they just aren’t Darius Slay right now. They could end up better in the long run but right now it’s a position downgrade.
S Nickoe Whitley (UPGRADE)- Nickoe was coming off of his Achilles injury and he looked a bit bigger last year and played a step slower. This year his conditioning looks great and he looks to have overcome his injury. If Nickoe returns to ’11 form, he will be a big upgrade over himself last year not being 100%,
S Dee Arrington (UPGRADE)- This one could just as easily been Jay Hughes but the rating stays the same. As much as I liked Corey Broomfield, either Arrington or Hughes is a big upgrade at S from last year.