Bob Carskadon from the HailStateBEAT was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about the DAWGS…
1. If there is a concern it seems to be the offensive line. Out of the newcomers that will play like Kent Flowers, Jake Thomas, etc, who are you hearing the best things about?
The offensive lineman being talked about the most – newcomer or not – might actually be sophomore Jamaal Clayborn over at left guard. Replacing Gabe Jackson is obviously a difficult charge, but Clayborn has been getting a ton of praise, to the point where no one is concerned about a dropoff. Think Taveze Calhoun stepping in for Johnthan Banks last year.
That said, I’m guessing you’re looking more for someone who hasn’t really played yet, which would eliminate Clayborn. The two you mentioned – Flowers and Thomas – are certainly in the conversation, though the two I probably hear the most about are sophomores Justin Senior and Devon Desper. Barring injury, they’re likely depth guys this season, but they may be the ones to step in after Blaine Clausell and Dillon Day graduate next spring.
2. What do you see Brandon Holloway’s role being this year?
MSU’s running backs are all set with three or four guys who can run between the tackles play-after-play, but the graduation of LaDarius Perkins left a hole in pass-catching and getting out on the edges. That’s where I’d expect Holloway to fit in, now that he’s switched to the backfield. I’d imagine he gets 2-5 touches per game – at least early on; could increase or decrease based on performance – in the form of sweeps, wheel routes, reverses and really any misdirection play to get him in space. He’s as quick as anyone on the team if he gets a hole to jump through.
Then, of course, he’ll be active in kick returns for all of the same reasons, the main one being speed. Now, while he’s going to be listed as a running back, I’d still expect to see him lined up as a receiver on occasion, either as a decoy or as the only backup to Jameon Lewis with game experience.
3. Guys like Kendrick Market and Taveze Calhoun stepped up last year to play big roles. Are there any other under the radar players on defense who could do similar things provided they get the chance for whatever reason?
The first guy that comes to mind is freshman linebacker Dez Harris. 6’4”, 230 pounds and the third man in the tree of uber-athletic linebackers starting with KJ Wright. As both defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Geoff Collins loves Harris and has raved about his talent. The only reason he may not have as big a role as Calhoun and Market did last year is because he will be behind Benardrick McKinney, Matt Wells and Beniquez Brown, but he’s a name I expect to hear a lot this year, and especially the next.
I’ll also give a shoutout to sophomore defensive end A.J. Jefferson here. David Turner called him his most consistent defensive lineman in the spring and he’s pushing hard to get on the field more. He may not have the long, tall build of guys like Ryan Brown and Preston Smith, but Jefferson gave both a big push in the spring and I’m thinking that will only continue.
4. Where do you anticipate Chris Jones playing the most in 2014, DE or DT?
Just a guess here, but I’ll say 60/40 tackle-to-end. The idea that he would maul people one-on-one on the outside is probably accurate, but being able to provide a pass rush from the inside isn’t something any end can do and goes a long way in opening things up for the rest of the defense.
I’d expect to see him regularly all over the line and you have to think that having someone like Chris Jones allows Collins and Turner a good deal of flexibility in terms of formations and lineups.
5. Field goal kicking was a big issue in 2013. Who is the front runner to perform those duties and do you expect late game FGs to be the difference in some of the swing games such as A&M or Auburn?
Field goal kicking is Evan Sobiesk’s job until someone takes it from him and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get the first kick of the season (and more to follow). Talking to the kickers and punters back in the spring, they’re feeling more comfortable in the routine and setup now that Greg Knox has taken over as special teams coach. Does that equal made field goals? I have no idea, but it certainly helps. And as much we like to allow for freshman mistakes at other positions, folks seem less apt to do the same for kickers. Now having had years in the program ought to aid in the confidence of Sobes.
And to the second part of the question: absolutely. Any good season in the SEC will involve close games, so field goals will be important. But, look at Auburn’s schedule last year. They won six games by one score or less, but all of those by four points or more. In other words, more than the difference a field goal makes (though we all well know what happened in the MSU-Auburn game).