Mississippi State Football: Bulldogs Hoping to Identify Disrupters up Front in Spring

Mississippi State football has a long tradition of producing elite defensive lineman. Will the next star from that group emerge in the spring?
Sep 9, 2023; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Arizona Wildcats running back Michael Wiley (6) is
Sep 9, 2023; Starkville, Mississippi, USA; Arizona Wildcats running back Michael Wiley (6) is / Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024 Maroon and White Spring Game at Mississippi State is just three days away. Mississippi State football is putting a wrap on their spring practices under first-year head coach Jeff Lebby, as they look to lay the foundation for a new-look program.

There's plenty new with the Bulldogs in 2024, and we're previewing each position group on the roster to get acclimated ahead of the spring game. In our last piece, we finished up the offense by looking at the offensive line. Now we turn our attention to the defense where we'll stay in the trenches with the MSU defensive line.

State has a long tradition of producing elite defensive line talent. They've become the NFL's "D-Line U". But entering 2024, there isn't a clear superstar up front for the Bulldogs like there often has been. So who are the key guys in the room, and who could become that star?

Seasoned vets need to break-out for Mississippi State

State has two guys who have been around a long time on the defensive line: De'Monte Russell and Deonte Anderson. Both have played defensive end for MSU (we'll see if that changes with the shift in scheme), and both have starting experience.

But neither have been overly productive thus far in their careers. Last season, the pair combined for just 1.5 sacks and five tackles for loss while rushing off the edge for MSU. That's not great, especially when no one else stepped-up either.

Last year State still had Jaden Crumedy and Nathan Pickering to lead the way along the DL. Now, Russell and Anderson are those seasoned veterans, and State really needs at least one of them to have a breakout campaign.

Trio of transfers add depth and potentially more to D-Line room

State was going to have to hit the portal hard for defensive lineman, and so far, they've added three to the room. Kedrick Bingley-Jones is a former 4-star prospect that's transferred in from North Carolina. He battled injuries during his time in Chapel Hill. Sulaiman Kpaka comes in from Purdue where he had two sacks and 2.5 TFL in 2023.

Wilky Denaud is an Auburn transfer that didn't see action as a true freshman a year ago, but he was another blue-chip prospect out of high school. The initial reaction to these additions was that they would mostly serve as depth pieces along the Bulldog DL considering none had been highly-productive players during their careers.

However, there's word that Bingley-Jones and Kpaka have been turning heads so far in spring practices. If these transfers can hit for State, that would be a major boost.

Younger faces with loads of potential need to shine

State has a group of young guys along the DL that could become those superstars they're looking for. Trevion Williams and Kalvin Dinkins were coveted recruits for State in 2022. After earning redshirts as true freshman, both entered 2023 hoping to make an impact. Unfortunately, both went down with injuries early in the season that sidelined them for the remainder of the year.

They're back healthy now, and they may be the most talented players along the DL. Though they've experienced very little playing time, they're now in their third year in the program. State needs to see that potential shine through this fall.

The defensive line has good potential. Will it reach it?

There are solid pieces along the defensive line in 2024. There are even a few guys who have the chance to become stars. But will we see that potential reached? That's the big question.

Hopefully, we get some of that answered in the spring game. It's hard to gauge much from a glorified scrimmage, but if a few guys are constantly wreaking havoc, that'd be a good sign.

I still believe State needs to target a more proven pass-rusher out of the portal, and it sounds like they are. But ideally we'll get a clearer picture of the talent in the DL room on Saturday.