The five most important defensive players for Mississippi State football in 2024

Mississippi State has a reputation for playing great defense, and these players need to deliver for that to happen in 2024.
Mississippi State Spring Football Game
Mississippi State Spring Football Game / Justin Ford/GettyImages

With so many key contributors gone from the last few years, Mississippi State football needs several players to step up if they're going to have a successful 2024 season. Jeff Lebby is counting on the likes of Blake Shapen and Makylan Pounders to make his offense tick in year one.

But who does defensive coordinator Coleman Hutzler need to play well to field a good defense this fall? Here's the five players most important for the defense...

Defensive Lineman Trevion Williams

Trevion Williams was a huge signee for State in 2022. But due to a redshirt season that year and early injury in 2023, we haven't seen much of him on the field. Well now State needs him to be the player he was projected to be. He's got the highest ceiling of anyone on the DL, and few positions can be more impactful than a dominant defensive tackle. If he can shine, it could change the entire outlook for the defense.

Linebacker Donterry Russell

Donterry Russell was forced onto the field out of necessity, but he made the most of his opportunity with 1.5 sacks an another tackle for loss against Alabama in his first ever game. He quickly became a starter and showed more flashes the rest of the way playing off the edge. MSU lacks proven pass-rushers who can consistently generate pressure, and they're going to need that to help the secondary. Russell needs to take the next step in 2024.

Linebacker John Lewis

John Lewis got his first chance to contribute to the LB corps as a junior in 2023. But he was slotted as a stand-up edge rusher as opposed to his more natural position at inside linebacker and didn't have the year many hoped for. He's moving back inside for 2024, and with superstars Bookie Watson and Jett Johnson gone, State needs him to finally breakthrough.

Cornerback Brice Pollock

As a true freshman, Brice Pollock found himself thrust into a starting role late in the year as State battled injuries. He took his lumps, but it was valuable experience to gain. And it's important that he can build off that experience. Montre Miller's likely the #1 CB, but #2 is up for grabs. Pollock has the talent, and with CB being a huge question mark for the team, he needs to show it.

Safety Isaac Smith

Few players on the roster are as talented as Isaac Smith. He was the jewel signee of the 2023 signing class, and got to play right away. But injuries before the season stunted his development, and he ultimately wasn't quite ready. Now he has a normal offseason to get up to speed, and if he can reach his potential, it'd be a major help.