I continue my breakdowns with DT.
PJ Jones (JR)
Due to an early suspension last year, Jones only played in 9 games and struggled to get in the flow, only registering 16 tackles on the year. He really showed in the spring that he is focused and ready to play to his potential. He looks really good physically at 6’2 300. He’s as athletic as it comes for a guy his size. Jones really seems to relish the leadership role and I’m expecting a big increase in his production.
Kaleb Eulls (JR)
I’ll admit that I’ve been tough on Eulls’s production from DE to this point in his career (1.5 career sacks). That said, I’ll also admit that I think this is the year he forces me to change my tune as a DT. He has bulked up a bit to 6’4 and the 300 lb range. He looks so much more comfortable and at home at DT. On the inside he becomes very athletic and makes quite the quick combo with Jones. I think he passes his career TFL numbers (2 years at DE) as a DT in the first half of the season.
Quay Evans (soph)
Often times the biggest challenge for freshmen is getting used to the college grind. The former high school #1 rated DT used his rookie year to get his conditioning down (lost 40+ lbs) and also made the honor roll as a criminology major. Although he was hampered by a high ankle sprain in the spring look for Evans to make his move in fall camp since he’s 100% healthy. The top 4 DT’s will get fairly even snaps so I’d expect to see more of what Evans can do early on.
Nick James (sophomore)
No one made a bigger impact on me through spring practice than James. He’s a monstrous guy at 6’4 330 and he moves surprisingly well. He’s also the most fun guy to watch because he looks like he loves football and the team feeds off his enthusiasm. He moves well for his size and is a big disruptive force on the inside.
Curtis Virges (JR)
In limited action in 2013, he was able to crack the stat book for 1.5 TFL (my favorite stat for DL). At 6’3 and 330 lbs, Virges immediately passes the eye test. When you see him move he passes athleticism test. It’s hard for me to get a good read on Virges. One play he looks like the best DT on the roster and then you don’t notice him. I’d say he has the tools to be a starter but its up to him to make it happen. He’s big and physical and will no doubt be in the game snap rotation. How much is to be determined and in fairness, that could be applied to all outside of the top 2.
Nelson Adams/Jordan Washington (RS freshmen)
Adams (6’3 290) and Washington (6’2 280) both have made big strides physically in their first years under Balis. They both look like SEC DT’s. After a year of learning, these 2 will battle it out for the scraps of the snaps. Not much, if any, separated these 2 and both show plenty of potential. 4 more years of them should make MSU fans rest easy about the future of the DL.
The big take away is that even though 2 very experienced players were lost (Boyd and Cherrington), the 2 replacing them make MSU much more athletic on the inside. Couple that with 2 young but elite talents getting their first real taste of action and its easy to see why many fans aren’t sweating the losses. Throw in Virges and that makes a really nice 5 man rotation. Keeping the DT’s fresh so they remain disruptive in the 2nd half is crucial and it looks that MSU has this luxury. Nice mix and experience and talent.