Mississippi State’s secondary performed well statistically in 2011. At 195.9 YPG, the Dawgs finished 23rd in the country in pass defense. Four players from the depth chart graduate: Charles Mitchell, Wade Bonner, Marvin Bure and Damien Anderson.
Bure and Anderson never received much playing time outside special teams. Charles Mitchell was the defensive captain in 2011, a season where he was 2nd on the team in tackles. Mitchell had a solid career at MSU which included four INTs (all his sophomore year), 11 passes defended, 7.5 tackles for loss and 283 tackles in all. Bonner was a kick returner and played some offense his redshirt freshman year, but mainly stuck to safety under Mullen. He started 10 games in his career; six of them were in 2011, his best year with 66 tackles and four passes defended.
The 2012 secondary received a huge boost when Johnthan Banks decided to stay at Mississippi State for his senior season. Banks will likely be a preseason 1st-team All-SEC pick, and provide State a lock-down corner to take away half the field. Opposite Banks will be Corey Broomfield for the fourth consecutive year. Broomfield was able to tally career highs in tackles and tackles for loss last season, but was unable to get any interceptions after having nine in his first two years.
At safety, hard-hitting Nickoe Whitley will return for his junior year. Before he was lost for the season in the Alabama game, Whitley had four INTs, 34 tackles and a forced fumble in seven starts. He’s had a great start to his career and he will be a force in 2012. Darius Slay will likely be called on to fill Charles Mitchell’s spot in the secondary. Slay will be a senior, and he may play cornerback and Banks move to safety. Rising sophomore Dee Arrington is an emerging star in the defensive backfield. He has been rumored to be moving to linebacker, but he could go either way.
MSU is in good position for this unit to succeed next year. Losing Mitchell and Bonner will sting, but the experience from Broomfield and Banks should keep the performance up. Look for about the same level of play from the secondary in 2012.