Mississippi State and head coach Dan Mullen saw great success in 2014, winning 10-games, playing in the Orange Bowl, being ranked number one in the country for five straight weeks and was the first ever team ranked number-one in the college football playoff.
But, with only seven players listed as starters coming back for 2015 what is left in the Bulldog Cupboard?
We still have a long way to go before we reach kickoff on September 5th down at Southern Miss and while we still have a lot that can happen in recruiting and the offseason, it’s never too early to start looking ahead at who might be your major players in 2015 for Mississippi State.
Over the next few weeks we will look at each position and give you a best guess on who might make an impact and why.
Today we take a look at the defensive front for the Bulldogs.
Key Losses: P.J. Jones, Kaleb Eulls, Preston Smith, Curtis Virges
Returning Roster Players:
Nelson Adams, Ryan Brown, Torrey Dale, Nick James, A.J. Jefferson, Chris Jones, Corey Thomas, Grant Harris, Braxton Hoyett, Will Coleman
New Dawgs on the Horizon:
NOTE: These players are tentative until they actually sign on Wednesday February 4, 2015.
Johnathan Calvin – Copiah Lincoln Community College – January enrollee.
Fletcher Adams – Brandon, MS (Brandon high school)
Keith Joseph – Pascagoula, MS (Pascagoula high school)
Kendal Jones – Pinson, AL (Clay-Chalkville)
Anfernee Mullens – Aliceville, AL (Aliceville high school)
Lost Production: The Bulldogs lose a lot of experience up front on the defensive side of the ball in their 1A-1B rotating scheme heading into 2015. 130- total tackles, 13-sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss ( TFL).
Preston Smith will be the biggest loss of the bunch with his 9-sacks and 15-TFL.
What’s Back: While the Bulldogs lose a lot, they keep a lot and here is where depth charts can be misleading when talking about returning starters. The Bulldogs return 127-tackles, 11.5-sacks and 20.5 TFL.
When you look at the production of the players leaving and the players returning it’s almost identical, which lets you know the Bulldogs rotating scheme was a big part of a 10-3 year in 2014.
Most Likely Scenario: Every player that was in that rotation that returns will be called upon this coming spring to carry the load up front for the Bulldogs. Look for Chris Jones, Nelson Adams and Nick James to get a look early inside to anchor the interior. The Bulldogs may consider moving a player inside to help with depth and will look to redshirts like Braxton Hoyett and Grant Harris to get some time inside.
The Bulldogs will depend heavily on Jonathan Calvin and give him plenty of opportunities to snag a defensive end position.
The Bulldogs also need a player like Ryan Brown to make that Preston Smith jump in 2015.
Rising Star: Chris Jones and yes Jones is already a star at Mississippi State, but kind of got lost in the shuffle this past year. He had a decent stat line for 2014, but will be called upon to take that next step in 2015.
Jones has all the intangibles to be one of the best linemen in the country. Now he just needs to go get it.
Final Take: Mississippi State has done a great job mixing bodies in every recruiting class and will head to fall camp in August with 15-players along the defensive front – if nothing happens between now and that time.
The Bulldogs have speed and length on the edges and the big guys up front, but the big challenge this year is finding those 1B-type guys to add that needed depth to play in the SEC.
If the Bulldogs can move the chess pieces around to make the right fits this spring, look for the Bulldog defensive front to again be one of the better units in the Southeastern Conference.