Position Previews: Defensive Tackle


Sep 21, 2013; Starkville, MS, USA; Troy Trojans running back Jordan Chunn (36) carries the ball up the field and is tackled by Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive lineman Chris Jones (96) during the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State brings one of the strongest defenses in the Southeastern Conference to the table. The defensive tackle position is a huge reason why that is the case.

Chris Jones, a consensus five-star prospect in 2013, headlines the group, but make no mistake – there is plenty of talent here. P.J. Jones, Nelson Adams, Curtis Virges, Kaleb Eulls, and, yes, even Nick James all play inside and give the Bulldogs a strong run defense.

Chris Jones accounted for 32 tackles – seven for a loss – and three sacks in a reserve roll his freshman season. Jones is still very raw at this point, but has already flashed lots of NFL potential. Once he gets his technique down things could get ugly for offensive lines around the SEC.

This unit is so good that Chris Jones comes off the bench – in favor of P.J.

P.J. Jones started ahead of Chris last year and made a big impact in doing so. Even with missing two games last year, P.J. notched 25 tackles and three sacks. He will definitely be a key part of the “Psycho Defense”.

Kaleb Eulls had twenty-six tackles as a junior and will look to build on that this year. Eulls is a veteran on the defense being a three year starter (first two years at DE) and should be huge part of Geoff Collins’ defense. He is an excellent character guy going into his senior year, so he may be a “starter” while not getting the lion’s share of playing time.

Nelson Adams saw action in all 13 games his redshirt freshman season and had eleven tackles. Adams is expected to make big contributions for the ‘Dawgs this season.

Curtis Virges didn’t make a lot of noise with his nine tackles and two and a half sacks last year, but he is a big part of this core. The rising senior should be another reason why this defense takes another step in 2014.

Nick James redshirted last year (his true sophomore season) and has not shown much to Mississippi State fans so far in his career, but there are still a few holding out hope he shows some of his natural ability in Maroon and White – and soon. At 6’5” 325 pounds, it isn’t a physical problem for James, it’s mental. Once he arrived in the SEC with the big boys he realized he could not dominate just solely because of his size like he did in high school. He has to learn technique and needs to develop his skills. David Turner is doing all he can to bring that talent out. A successful Nick James could mean the different in a very good or an elite defensive line this year.

The Bulldogs did a pretty nice job against the run during the 2013 college football season. Mississippi State held Alcorn State, Troy, Texas A&M, and Rice under one hundred yards in the running game and held Auburn and Ole Miss under a buck-fifty. Granted, Auburn may have gotten better as the season went along, but the defense shut down Malzahn’s running game. Heisman finalist Tre Mason didn’t even get 50 yards rushing and the Tigers only scored twenty-four points – thanks in large part to this incredible defensive tackle group.

Incoming freshman Cory Thomas, Braxton Hoyett, and Grant Thomas are likely redshirt candidates but could see action for the Maroon and White this fall if they prove ready. Expect this group of DTs to become even stronger this year, as there is a lot of experience across the board.