Spring Practice started March 18. The Bulldogs will start their preparation for the 2014 football season and it ends on April 12 with the Spring game, the marquee event of Super Bulldog Weekend. Mississippi State is poised to have one of their best seasons in 2014, but there are a number of things that need to be developed to get the most out of this team as possible. Today we look at the Defensive Backs.
The biggest concern on the team entering the 2013 season was how would the DBs on the team respond after losing two second round picks to the NFL draft in Johnathan Banks and Darius Slay. Early on, it looked bleak. Nick Marshall threw for more yards against us than he did against any other opponent, and Zack Mettenberg and Odell Beckham had monster games against our secondary. Things did get better as the year went along. Their steady improvement was displayed best in the Egg Bowl when they harassed Bo Wallace into two interceptions and countless poor throws. So here is what I would like to see happen this spring.
Replace Nickoe Whitley: Justin Cox is going to move to safety, which he did during the Liberty Bowl as well since Nickoe was recovering from his surgery. Whitley had a rough start to the 2013 campaign but came on strong during the second half to end his career at Mississippi State on the right foot. I liked watching Nickoe Whitley play, but the safeties that play like Nickoe did, big hitters basically, are going to have a hard time surviving in the new landscape of the NCAA Targeting Rule. Justin Cox making the move from CB to Safety should make a smooth transition. He will be more accustomed to actually covering and playing center field.
Keep Turning the 2 Stars into 4 Stars: Taveze Calhoun and Kendrick Market were thrown into the fire this year. Nobody expected much out of either player when they signed with Mississippi State, as both we just 2 star players. Both have already outplayed their star rating. Market was the third leading tackler on the team at Strong Safety. Calhoun had three interceptions, one of which ended the Arkansas game in overtime. Calhoun also played his best game against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl. It seemed whenever Ole Miss was about to make a play, Calhoun was there to break it up.
Fully Incorporate Will Redmond: Will Redmond was out for the first five games of the season last year because of his suspension due to NCAA sanctions. As a result, the coaching staff was not able to incorporate him into their defensive scheme as much as they would have liked. It’s not a coincidence that the secondary started to improve their play when Redmond gained more experience on the field. Will Redmond is a talented player, and a full spring and summer working with the coaching staff can only help sure up what has become one of the strongest units on the team.
Despite the growing pains the secondary experienced last year, the Bulldogs have a talented group that managed to pick off fourteen passes total last year. This group could make the biggest strides from opening snap of 2013 to 2014. It’s a group loaded with potential, and with the increased presence of Hurry Up No Huddle offenses, this group will be relied on more than ever to make plays.