I continue my breakdowns with defensive end today.
Preston Smith (JR)
MSU fans will finally get to see what Smith can do with the lion-share of reps as a starting DE. In a limited role last year he led MSU in sacks (4.5). At 6-6 260, he is the prototypical size for an SEC DE. This spring he dominated showing a very balanced pass rushing arsenal. He has a nice speed rush but also the best bull rush of MSU’s DE’s. I expect him to lead in sacks again.
Denico Autry (SR)
Last year saw Autry start off a bit slow as he adjusted from juco to the SEC but he finished strong ending the year 2nd on the team in sacks (4). At 6-5 255, his elite speed defies logic for a guy his size. He’s a long lean pass rushing specialist who excels by beating the OT around the end but when he gets them leaning back, a quick move inside and bingo. I really expect a much higher sack total out of Autry in the double digit range making him and Smith one of the better duos in the league.
Ryan Brown (soph)
The 6-6 260 Brown was one of the surprises last fall earning reps as a true freshman. The New Orleans native showed up for spring and challenged every single day to grab one of the starting DE spots. Many days he got first team reps. Brown is another guy that immediately passes the eye test and his game reminds me a lot of Preston Smith; how balanced a DE they are. There is very little, if anything, separating Brown from Autry and Smith and I expect him to get plenty of game reps in 2013.
Chris Jones (true freshman)
This is my surprise pick of sorts because I have never seen Jones compete in college. My main line of thinking is that you don’t sign the 2nd best player in America to redshirt him. At 6-6 280 and unrivaled quick burst explosion, he is as close to SEC ready as you can be. I expect him to get plenty of 3rd down pass rushing opportunities.
AJ Jefferson (RS freshman)
After a year of learning, Jefferson came out ready to prove himself in the spring. He definitely appeared to be a hair above the other RS freshman as far as being game ready. He plays physical and comes off the ball very hard. I like Jefferson’s future at MSU; he’s a player. I’m going to make a guess that is strictly my opinion. At 6’2 260 he is the only DE we have that isn’t long and lean. He has a frame that could easily bulk up another 25 lbs and could slide inside to DT a la PJ Jones. His build and style of play could make him one if those DT’s that a little undersized but very athletic.
Torrey Dale (RS freshman)
Another RS that showed flashes in the spring. First thing you notice with him is size. He’s 6’6 but a little slim. He’s listed at 230. He’s a technical player who has a well rounded game. His length makes him an asset rushing the passer and holding containment. He needs to gain some weight but Dale shows a lot of promise for the future.
John Harris (soph)
Don’t let where he is on my depth chart fool you about Harris. It’s more a testament to the intense competition. At 6’5 235, Harris has the frame to be an SEC DE. He might be the fastest DE on the roster (either him or Autry). His game is that of a speed rusher and he just needs some more weight to help battle. He’s already gained 20+ lbs since getting to MSU and 20 more would make him an Autry clone physically. Keep an eye on how he looks physically come fall camp.
Corvell Harrison-Gay (JR)
He’s a little small at 6’3 255 but a solid hustle player. In the spring he mostly got 2nd and 3rd team reps. As loaded as DE is, I wouldn’t mind seeing him bulk up and move inside. From everything I hear, a great guy and hard worker who brings worth to the team that can’t be fully attributed to game reps.
The only other position that rivals the competition at DE is TE but there is no question that the talent at DE makes it the most loaded position at MSU. Last year had a learning DE (Autry) and an out of position DE (Eulls). The upgrade at this position to start this year is exciting. Autry and Smith posses the kind of talent to be a 20 sack duo. Ryan Brown is an SEC starter. Chris Jones is a program changer with Jadaveon Clowney type upside. Throw in the 2 RS freshmen and an athlete like John Harris… One would have to make a strong argument that this isn’t the best position group MSU has had in my lifetime. Coach Turner has a heck of a job dividing these reps.