My 2nd Email From Ole Miss Athletic Department

My 2nd Email From Ole Miss Athletic Department

As the world turns at 3rdAnd57.com, I got my 2nd email from Ole Miss Associate AD Kyle Campbell. Due to a confidentiality notice attached to the email, I cannot post the email on the site. I can however discuss and address the issues he had. This isn’t the first time he’s taken issue with a story on the site. If you read the first story, it will give you context of the trend Mr. Campbell is following. Now to the newest email.

Concern #1- “Don’t Jump to the conclusion our coaches are lying.” I actually have no problem with this request. If you read my words in the story I never said “Hugh Freeze is lying”. I did however state that with the fact discrepancy it was a possibility. The Ole Miss AD office is denying he lied so it is the reader’s objective to believe or not believe. I don’t care either way.

Concern #2- “Barton removed it after he realized the prospect misspoke.” Barton Simmons exact quote is “That quote has been removed. There was a misunderstanding on Jamal’s end”. Now I will give my opinion on this and you can quote me. I don’t believe Barton realized anything. I’m guessing Mr. Campbell contacted him as he did me, asking for that quote to come down because it showed a misleading inconsistency. This quote was asked to be removed by Ole Miss administration period. No other reason. Barton needs access to Ole Miss staff and camps for his job. It’s in his best interest to comply with this request and is why he did.

Could this all be a big misunderstanding? Absolutely. Even if the recruit made an accident in his quote, I still take issue with Mr. Campbell and his administration’s stance on this issue. He informed me in the email that the actual graduation rate is 77%. I have no numbers to support or deny this so I take his word. I can promise that if an athletic director read my under the radar blog, he sure as hell read the 247 story talking about Ole Miss recruiting as well as Freeze and/or his staff. They didn’t immediately contact Barton to change the quote. They did after my story ran portraying a possible lie. So I’m left to assume that Ole Miss is ok with inaccuracies as long as its in the Rebel’s favor?

Here is the problem ladies and gentlemen. When you market your program as the Sunday school of SEC football and throw around terms like “faith based recruiting”, you set a extremely high standard for yourself. Keep in mind that YOU set this standard for your program. No one else. So when an inaccuracy occurs, it’s your job to fix it no matter if the final picture doesn’t help you. YOU set these standards so police your end as hard as you do what you feel is the other end. That’s why people take issue with pictures taken at bars of YOUR prospects with girls and alcohol on your big recruiting weekend. You want to label yourself as “faith based recruiters”, that’s fine. Now it’s YOUR job to live up to the expectations you set for YOURSELF.

I’ll step off my pulpit for now. Lets get to some cold hard facts. Ole Miss has the 2nd lowest APR in the SEC with only Tennessee behind them. That number is not for debate. I’ll close with a personal assumption. I have no delusion of grandeur of what I am or what my site is. I’m not the best writer or web designer. What I do posses is a substantial amount of common sense. What I do know is that if an SEC athletic director is reading my blog, I’m touching on some nerves. If he has never disputed the whole story (just nit picked little bits and pieces) than I assume I’m doing something right. I would assume that if you want what I write to go unnoticed then the best thing to do is ignore me. Don’t legitimize me…Twice.

How Big (figuratively) is the Davis Wade Expansion?

How Big (figuratively) is the Davis Wade Expansion?

I was reminded how big the Davis Wade Stadium expansion is when Jameon Lewis shared the picture from his Instagram. The field view angle is the one that excites me the most. Not only does the size of DWS increase, but the style of the stadium finally enters the modern age of college football venues.

I’m not intending this article to be a Larry Templeton shot but in my opinion, the biggest blunder on his watch was electing to expand an upper deck instead of bowling in the stadium. For years MSU has been the only stadium in the SEC that wasn’t bowled in on at least one side. Don’t think for a second that this wasn’t used at nauseam by opposing coaches on the recruiting trail.

MSU fans are already aware of the atmosphere on game day but if you’d never been and knew it was the only open ended stadium, you may form a misconception. This constantly comes up in recruiting visit interviews that they were surprised by the atmosphere and crowd. This move will help squash that misconception before it even occurs. Part of getting great coaches and players is top notch facilities. With the completion of the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex and the ongoing expansion and renovations at DWS, MSU shows its commitment to being a consistent winner in the SEC.

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How Much Should Mullen Play True Freshmen?

How Much Should Mullen Play True Freshmen?

Every February fans like to prognosticate which signees will see the field in the upcoming season. Then the players get to school and reality sets in. The reality that SEC football is on another stratosphere from high school and they may not be as game ready as they thought. These revelations culminate in the crux of the issue: should they redshirt?

This is a multi-faceted issue that Coach Dan Mullen has to approach with a sense of uniqueness to MSU. You may wonder what I mean by that. A school like Alabama or Ohio State may have a bit more leverage in asking players to redshirt. They recruit in the top 5 every year and are loaded with 4 and 5 star talent. A player going to these schools know they may have an NFL guy in front of them. MSU doesn’t sign as many high profile guys and its led me to a slightly different opinion than the majority of Bulldog fans.

One thing I constantly hear is that Mullen should redshirt everyone he can. I hear that if these true freshmen players aren’t on the 2 deep and don’t redshirt, its a wasted year. I vehemently disagree with this sentiment. Before I give you reason why I want to preface that there are certain positions that need to redshirt the majority of the time and they are QB and OL. Those 2 positions just need the extra year of development. The rest, not so much.

Reason number 1 is that I don’t want Mullen to have the reputation that he doesn’t play true freshmen. Regardless if its a ridiculous thought, you don’t want that perception used against you on the recruiting trail. The truth is that leading up to National Signing Day, all recruits think they can play/start immediately. You have to understand that they are operating under ego-driven, over-inflated feeling of self worth and the program needs to exude the perception that they can achieve their immediate goal. That is, until fall camp and they come to the realization of the intense competition. The more true freshman that Mullen plays, the better for this perception.

Next reason is that they can plain help you win games. One place I love to see young, elite talent is special teams. So many games are won or lost on coverage units and that is where a young guy, no matter how raw, can excel. Lets use an example. You sign a 4 star, 6’1 and 215lb RB who runs a 4.45. He is your 4th string RB but is a running and hitting machine. Plug him in on punt and kick off coverages. The flip side is that you redshirt him and put a 2nd string, 4th year JR safety who is not an elite athlete on the coverage units and he can’t make the plays the true freshman could. That can lose you games ladies and gentlemen.

The last reason I’m pro play true freshmen is numbers. You only get 85 scholarships and can sign 25. If you redshirt everyone, that’s 125 players in a 5 year cycle. That puts you 40 players over. That’s means you need 8 players worth of attrition a year. So you can root for discipline problems to get booted, injuries, or cutting guys if you support redshirting them all. I admit that’s a little extreme but hopefully you get the point: playing more true freshmen is actually necessary.

Now I want to break down the 2013 signees and what I think about there playing chances.

Chris Jones
MSU currently has 3 really good DE’s in Autry, Smith, and Brown. All are SEC starters. Mullen could get away with redshirting Jones. Let me be clear: Chris a Jones has to play. You don’t sign the 2nd best player in America to redshirt. You’d get hammered with that on the recruiting trail. You rotate him in and let him get most the reps in big wins. Maybe make him a 3rd down specialist.

Fred Ross
He actually walks into a really good situation with all the experience MSU lost from last year. A big time 4 star WR should be able to earn reps from the start. WR is a position where an impact can be made immediately and Ross should do just that.

Ashton Sumpert
In a slightly controversial opinion, I think he should play (if ready of course). Although MSU has 4 RB’s, he could be great on coverage units. If Shumpert can help win games by playing on special teams, he should. The goal is winning now, not 4 years from now. Also think about RB. It’s not out of the blue to have an injury or 2 as the year goes on (LSU last year). Wouldn’t you feel better if he was making plays on ST all year if he gets forced into late action?

Surprise Players
There is always at least 1 guy who you think is a redshirt who plays, like Ryan Brown last year. I expect at least 1 but probably more guys to play out of the group: Shelby Christy, De’Runnya Wilson, BJ Hammond, Tolando Cleveland, Kivon Coman, or Gabe Myles.

Playing too many freshmen is never good but Mullen is at a point where his depth lets him pick and choose his spots. I say take those spots and play aggressively, play to win, and use as many true freshmen that can help you achieve that. I’ve heard that the coaches give the players an honest evaluation of where they stand post fall camp and ultimately the players make the call to redshirt or not. So it’s not a 100% exclusive coaching decision. I just think there is plenty of benefit of getting more guys ready to play and not sit out a year.

MSU Projected Depth Chart

MSU Projected Depth Chart

In my position by position breakdowns I listed where I thought each player was on the depth chart. This is what I had in an easy to read format. These are all my opinion and up for debate. I’m basing my opinions on attending spring practices/scrimmages, what I’ve read, and what I’ve heard.

QB
#1 Tyler Russell (SR)
#2 Dak Prescott (Soph)
#3 Damien Williams (FR)

RB
#1 Ladarius Perkins (SR)
#2 Derrick Milton (Soph)/ Josh Robinson (Soph)
#3 Nick Griffin (JR)
#4 Ashton Shumpert (FR)

WR
#1 Robert Johnson (Soph)
#1 Jeremy Chappelle (JR)
#2 Fred Brown (FR)
#2 Michael Carr (JR)
#3 Joe Morrow (Soph)
#3 Fred Ross (FR)
#4 Shelby Christy (FR)
#4 De’Runnya Wilson (FR)
#4 BJ Hammond (FR)

Slot WR
#1 Jameon Lewis (JR)
#2 Brandon Holloway (FR)
#3 Fred Ross (FR)

TE
#1 Malcolm Johnson (JR)
#2 Brandon Hill (JR)/Rufus Warren (Soph)
#3 Christian Holmes (JR)
#4 Gus Walley (FR)
#5 Artimas Samuel (FR)

LT
#1 Blaine Clausell (JR)
#2 Justin Senior (FR)
#3 Cole Carter (FR)
#4 Kent Flowers (FR)

LG
#1 Gabe Jackson (SR)
#2 Ben Beckwith (JR)
#3 Paul Thompson (JR)

C
#1 Dillon Day (JR)
#2 Dylan Holley (SR)
#3 Devon Desper (FR)

RG
#1 Justin Malone (Soph)
#2 Archie Muniz (JR)
#3 Jamal Clayborn (FR)

RT
#1 Charles Siddoway (SR)
#2 Damien Robinson (JR)
#3 Jake Thomas (FR)

DE
#1 Preston Smith (JR)
#1 Denico Autry (SR)
#2 Ryan Brown (Soph)
#2 Chris Jones (FR)
#3 AJ Jefferson (FR)
#3 Torrey Dale (FR)
#4 Jon Harris (Soph)
#4 Corvell Harrison-Gay (JR)

DT
#1 PJ Jones (JR)
#1 Kaleb Eulls (JR)
#2 Quay Evans (Soph)
#2 Nick James (Soph)
#3 Curtis Virges (JR)
#3 Nelson Adams (FR)/Jordan Washington (FR)

SLB
#1 Deonte Skinner (SR)
#2 Beni Brown (FR)

MLB
#1 Benardrick McKinney (Soph)
#2 Ferlando Bohanna (JR)
#3 Dez Harris (FR)

WLB
#1 Matt Wells (JR)
#2 Richie Brown (FR)
#3 Zack Jackson (JR)

CB
#1 Justin Cox (JR)
#1 Tye Jiles (Soph)
#2 Jamerson Love (JR)
#2 Taveze Calhoun (Soph)
#3 Will Remond (FR)
#3 Kivon Coman (FR)
#4 Rishun McCaleb (SR)
#4 Tolando Cleveland (FR)/Jahmere Irvin-Sills (FR)/Gabe Miles (FR)

SS
#1 Jay Hughes (JR)
#2 Dee Arrington (JR)
#3 Quadry Antoine (FR)
#4 Brandon Wells (FR)

FS
#1 Nickoe Whitley (SR)
#2 Deonte Evans (Soph)
#3 Kendrick Market (Soph)
#4 Brandon Wells (FR)

K
#1 Devon Bell (Soph)
#2 Evan Sobiesk (Soph)

P
#1 Baker Sweedenburg (SR)
#2 Michael Mordecai (Soph)

LS
#1 Winston Chapman (Soph)

MSU Position Group Breakdown: OL

MSU Position Group Breakdown: OL

I continue my position group breakdowns with offensive line.

#1 LT

Blaine Clausell (JR)
For all intents and purposes, this is his 3rd year as the starting LT. 1rs year he took his lumps, last year fans saw much better pass blocking, and this year another step in the right direction would make Clausell a pretty dang good LT. Physically he looks to have gained a lot of size (up to 6’7 310) and strengths since year 1. That should help with his run blocking which is probably his weakness along with a bull rush.

#1 LG

Gabe Jackson (SR)
No question that he is the most elite talent on this years team. Most NFL projections have him as the 2nd best OG in the next draft. He is the only true mauler on MSU’s line. At 6’4 320 he’s got the size and also the freakish strength to go down as one of MSU’s all-time great on the OL.

#1 C

Dillon Day (JR)
Just as Clausell was, Day was thrust into a starting role as a RS freshman. You might as well say he is a 3rd year starter as well. At 6’4 295, Day is the prototypical center in today’s game. He was a surprise to fans at first and has improved each step of the way. He really embraced a leadership role in the spring. Look for some sort of honors by years end for Day.

#1 RG

Justin Malone (soph)
As a RS freshman getting most of the reps, fans saw some growing pains. All in all, I think Malone did an outstanding job. He did really well in pass protection. There was a noticeable difference in the running game when Tobias Smith was in but that is an area he can improve in. Malone is one of the most athletic OG in the SEC at 6’6 315.

#1 RT

Charles Siddoway (SR)
The behemoth (6’7 315) juco transfer played well in his first year as a starter. One little know fact is that Siddoway played with a torn tendon in both feet for most of the year. A 100% healthy Siddoway and a full year to adjust is bound to be improved in 2013.

#2 LT

Justin Senior (RS Freshman)
The young Senior saw most of the 2nd team LT reps in the spring. It looks as if he’s being groomed to be the next LT after Clausell graduates. At 6’5 300, he has the size and he also has good feet.

#2 LG

Ben Beckwith (JR)
The former walk-on is one of my favorites to watch because he gives full effort every time. At 6’3 305, he’s got the size the play inside. Also has a bit of a mean streak. Probably the 3rd OG off the bench.

#2 C

Dylan Holley (SR)
The juco transfer is a bit undersized (6’1 295) but is a good back up option. He’s a really sound blocker and equally hard worker. Center also has to be able to call blocking audibles and he seems to be able to do this as well.

#2 RG

Archie Muniz (JR)
At 6’5 295, he has more of a OT frame but I’ve read that he would be moved to OG. That may be a depth situation where he’s needed more at OG. Muniz is a long guy with good feet. His biggest drawback is that he hasn’t been healthy but that isn’t his fault.

#2 RT

Damien Robinson (JR)
The former 4 star recruit took some time to adjust to big time football but he’s coming off his best spring. He almost beat out Siddoway at RT. Robinson has great size (6’6 310) and really long arms making a perfect OT frame.

#3 T

Cole Carter (RS freshman)
After a redshirt year, Carter did grow a good bit (6’5 295). He has a lot more growing he could do and good feet. A lot of upside here.

#3 G

Paul Thompson (JR)
Even though he’s listed as a OT, I think he’s more of a G. At 6’3 280, he could grow some more but he has a really good athletic frame. Really hard worker.

#3 C

Devon Desper (RS freshman)
He looked really good in the spring for a young guy. At 6’3 300, he has more room to grow. He plays with a mean streak. Even though I have him listed as the #3 C, he would see the field faster than some in front of him in certain situations. I could see him forced into action at G.

#3 RG

Jamaal Clayborn (true freshman)
The first year player from Jackson Academy has been spoken well of from summer workouts so far. Plenty of upside but I expect him to redshirt.

#3 RT

Jake Thomas (true freshman)
The former 4 star recruit spent a year learning to get better. Big guy at 6’5 300, he has the frame to get bigger. I don’t see him getting much playing time this year but the future is bright.

#4 OT

Kent Flowers (true freshman)
Most likely a redshirt but fans were very excited about his signing. The Hollandale-Simmons product is very athletic. Pair that with a 6’4.5 and 295 frame, and its easy to see why many prognosticators thought he had the most upside of any MS Hugh school OL.

Analysis

How often do teams get to say they return all 5 starters? It’s not often but MSU can. Throw in the wildcard that Tobias Smith hasn’t completely written off returning yet and the potential for the line this year is big. There is also quality depth to bolster the first 5. Another thing to notice about Mullen’s OL recruiting is that he likes big, long, athletic guys and the roster shows that. Also notice that there aren’t any fat boys either. These guys can move.

MSU Position Group Breakdown: Safety

MSU Position Group Breakdown: Safety

I continue the breakdowns today with safety.

#1 FS

Nickoe Whitley (SR)
The senior head hunter has played his whole career at FS and that’s where I expect he’ll start. After standout years as a freshman and sophomore, last year was a bit of a down year production wise. It’s understandable considering he was coming off a ruptured Achilles. In the spring, Whitley looked better conditioned and was moving well. He looked like the old Nickoe. That’s good news for MSU fans who covet that enforcer at safety.

#1 SS

Jay Hughes (JR)
Even though this is Hughes first year as the full time starter, he probably should have started last year. It would have been hard not to start Corey Broomfield last year, even though he was out of position. The 5’11 190 Hughes plays like a coach on the field. He always seems to be in the right place to either make a play on the ball or the receiver. He had a really good spring and I’d expect the same in fall camp. Big upgrade at the position, personnel wise, as opposed to last year.

#2 FS

Deonte Evans (soph)
The 5’10 195 product of Mccomb really came into his own since the end of last year. He’s really established himself a the FS of the future and probably earned game reps on defense and special teams. He’s a really good athlete who does everything pretty well. He also packs a punch when he gets to the ball or receiver.

#2 SS

Dee Arrington (JR)
By far the most physically imposing safety on MSU’s roster at 6’1 210. He had a neck and neck battle with Hughes and Hughes barely edged him out in my eyes. Physically and athletically I think Arrington is superior. He constantly wows you in practice with his athleticism and size but probably needs to work on the mental side to overtake Hughes. I expect Arrington to get his fair share of game reps and really shine on coverage units.

#3 FS

Kendrick Market (soph)
The South Panola product shows the same thing in practice he showed his whole high school career: a nose for the ball. He’s not gonna wow you with size (5’10 185) but he will with heart. With the MSU secondary being so packed, it will be interesting to see where he fits in as far as reps but he deserves to crack the game log.

#3 SS

Quadry Antoine (RS freshman)
The Belle Chasse, LA native came in with the nickname of “hitman” and he has not disappointed. At 5’9 205, he’s in the similar mold of Nickoe Whitkey physically and stylistically. There is definitely a future for Antoine in the defensive backfield. He just needs to work on coverage and the mental aspect of being a safety.

#4 FS/SS

Brandon Wells (true freshman)
The 2013 signee from Bogue Chitto immediately bring something to safety that MSU lacks: size. At 6’2 175 he has a really long frame that can flourish in his time with Coach Balis. He’s classified as an athlete but I really think safety is his home. At camps last summer, he ran 4.4 range so speed is not an issue. Very bright future for Wells even though he will probably redshirt.

Analysis
When you think about safety last year, you really need some perspective. MSU had a FS (Whitley) that was clearly not 100% and a SS (Broomfield) who played CB his whole career and was out of position. A healthily Whitley and Jay Hughes is a big upgrade from last year. Both guys I have at #2’s are legit SEC starters so you have to feel good about quality depth. The only minor gripe i could have is lack of size. You would love to see all the guys the size of Arrington and Wells. Fortunately, being big isn’t a requirement to be a good safety. All in all, there is a lot of athleticism and safety is not a position group MSU fans should worry about.

MSU Position Group Breakdown: CB

MSU Position Group Breakdown: CB

I continue my breakdowns with cornerback.

#1

Justin Cox (JR)
4 star juco transfer who originally signed with MSU out of West Point but had to go the juco route. At 6’2 190, he immediately fits into the bigger type of CB that Darius Slay and Jon Banks were. After watching him all spring, I’m sold on his ability. He plays extremely physical on the outside as an intimidator. He has speed to burn. Definitely an NFL type talent that has to prove it on the field. A big year and he could be 1 and done.

#1

Cedric Jiles (Soph)
First off, I have Jiles listed as a sophomore but he’s a freshman on 247. I think he can get last year back via a medical redshirt on the back end of his career. I’m not an MSU official so don’t hold me to that listing. Anyway, at 5’10 and 190 Jiles isn’t the physically imposing CB that Cox is but he’s just as tough. In the spring he was neck and neck with Will Redmond but the suspension propels Jiles. He’s a well rounded CB who does everything well and needs to learn through experience.

#2

Jamerson Love (JR)
The most experienced of all of MSU’s corners and the only returning one with an interception. He’s very similar in size to Jiles and ran a dead heat in the spring with Jiles and Redmond. Love is very agile and uses his quickness to jump routes. He constantly gets praise from coaches for his progress during off-season workouts. Very well could be the starter come week 1.

#2

Taveze Calhoun (soph)
Somewhat of the forgotten man at corner for MSU. An injury kept him from competing this spring but he does return the 2nd most experience right behind Love. At 6’1 he does have really good size. He looked good in mop up duty last year. Fall camp is going to tell it all for Calhoun and his play time this upcoming season.

#3

Will Redmond (soph)
Having him as a 3rd team guy is not indicative of his talent or his performance in the spring. Having him 3rd team is all about him sitting out 6 games and having to get in the swing of things in the 2nd half of the year. He’s 6′ 180, runs really well, and plays with route intelligence. The suspension is no doubt a set back but I fully expect Redmond to make a strong push at playing time as soon as its up.

#3

Kivon Coman (true freshman)
Originally signed with MSU last year but had to do a year at Hargrave and was able to enroll in January and go through spring practice. I was actually very surprised to see him at CB and not safety but I began to see why. At 6’1 200 with long arms, he is quite the imposing corner. He is very raw but I like his future. Outside of coverage units I don’t see him getting a bunch of game reps but I really like Coman’s future in the defensive backfield.

#4

Rishun McCaleb (SR)
He started his career as a walk-on from juco but he has competed in the defensive backfield at safety and corner from day 1. McCaleb is a hard worker with good size (6’3 200). From watching a bunch of practices and following McCaleb on twitter, its hard for him to not be a favorite of mine. He’s a guy you just root for.

#4

Tolando Cleveland, Jahmere Irvin-Sils, Gabe Miles (true freshman)
All these guys turned down other major BCS offers to come play CB at MSU. All 3 bring different strengths to the table but I expect to see all redshirt considering what’s in front of them. The competition at CB the next few years will be intense.

Analysis
Even though MSU lost 2 big time corners in Banks and Slay, I expect this group to do a really nice job replacing them. Cox gives gives you that immediate big time talent. Love, Jiles, and Redmond are in the middle of competition that makes everyone better. Love and Calhoun return the most experience but I’m not sure how much that matters. When you look at this position group and see no scholarship seniors and 7 guys sophomore or younger, you really have to like the future. That’s dog eat dog competition that will give you some quality starters.

MSU Position Group Breakdown: LB

MSU Position Group Breakdown: LB

I continue my breakdowns with linebacker today.

#1 MLB

Benardrick McKinney (soph)
The 6’4 240 freshman All-American returns as the centerpiece of the 2013 defense. Last year McKinney was 2nd on the team in tackles registering 102. The physical freak of nature has been well publicized this offseason and has some hype to live up to this year. During the spring he seemed to take the next step and seems primed for a bigger breakout year.

#1 SLB

Deonte Skinner (SR)
Last year saw Skinner a bit out of position on the weak side and his production showed it (62 tackles; 7 less than the year before). Lining up on the weak side put him more matched up with WR’s and the passing game. At 6’2 245 he is a physical player who plays more to his strengths on the strong side. He plays mad and delivers a big pop when he gets to the ball. Look for a much more productive Skinner and better tackle and TFL numbers this year.

#1 WLB

Matt Wells (JR)
Under the previous defensive coordinator’s scheme, Wells was the moss under and misused player on the defense. He’s 6’2 215 and has run sub 4.4 (hand timed) on the watch of Balis. He is a big time athlete that plays the hybrid LB role perfectly and can help match up with spread teams. He has been almost unblockable in blitzing drills in practice and I expect Coach Collins and his “defensive mayhem” scheme to put Wells in positions to play to his strengths. Look for tackles (34), TFL (2.5), and INT’s (1) to go up from last year.

#2 MLB

Ferlando Bohanna (JR)
The 6′ 230 lb headhunter saw some action last year and registered 25 tackles. One could make a strong argument that he is the hardest hitter on the team. He plays angry. The Chris Hughes dismissal makes Bohanna so much more important since not only is he the backup MLB but he may also be the next SLB as well. He has all the physicality to do so and the Memphis product has patiently waited to make his mark.

#2 SLB

Beni Brown (RS freshman)
The 2012 4 star recruit redshirted last year and used the year to learn the defense and get bigger. Entering the 2013 year in the 225 lb range (6’1) allows him to be able to better handle the physicality of the SEC. In the spring he seemed the more game ready of the redshirts, especially physically. The dismissal of Hughes makes his development crucial since he could be the next LB of the bench on the strong side. Brown does posses the speed to play on the weak side but I think circumstance pushes him to SLB.

#2 WLB

Richie Brown (RS freshman)
The 2nd of the 2, 4 star LB’s who redshirted last year. I think Richie’s future is in the middle or strong side but circumstance pushes him here for now. The 1rst thing that jumps out at you about Richie is how fast he his. The 2nd is how much room he has to grow despite his listing at 6’2.5 and 230 lbs (he looks slim). He really has a big time future at MSU. I’ve heard many compare him to Cam Lawrence but I disagree. He reminds me much more of Chris White who is currently in the NFL.

#3

Zach Jackson (JR)
He’s another of the hybrid type LB’s who has floated back and forth between here and safety over his career. He’s 6’1 215 and runs really well. I think the number one thing holding him back is his lack of experience at LB. He has the tools. I think he will have a tough time getting game reps at LB (Hughes dismissal helps him though) but he can be a standout on the coverage units because his strengths are running and hitting.

#3

Dez Harris (true freshman)
Big time athlete at 6’2 and 220 who played QB in high school. Another guy Coach Collins has spotted and thinks he can mold into a LB a la Benardrick McKinney. Harris suffered an ACL injury his senior year and is expected to redshirt.

Analysis
First thing that sticks out is a whole lot of ability in the first 3. The Browns have to make MSU fans feel good about the future. There is one concern. Only 8 LB’s on the roster with 1 graduating is not an ideal depth position. MSU needs to address this in recruiting but I’ve heard they are taking from 3-4. Back to this year. McKinney has the chance to be really special and this year the progression should stick out. Skinner and Wells should both be used much better scheme wise, therefore helping them make plays. Bohanna is crucial off the bench this year. Also, look for the Browns to get their first taste of action and show well.

MSU Position Group Breakdown: DT

MSU Position Group Breakdown: DT

I continue my breakdowns with DT.

#1

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.

#1

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.

#2

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.

#2

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.

#3

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.

#3

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.

Analysis

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.

MSU Position Group Breakdown: DE

MSU Position Group Breakdown: DE

I continue my breakdowns with defensive end today.

#1

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.

#1

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.

#2
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.

#2

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.

#3

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.

#3

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.

#4

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.

#4

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.

Analysis

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.