FWTCT Football Spring Position Previews: Defensive Line

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 30: Josh Boyd #97 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs sacks quarterback Tanner Price #10 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during play at the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at LP Field on December 30, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. Mississippi State won 23-17. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

There's a good chance this position preview will mention the name Fletcher Cox quite a bit. The Bulldog's super stud Defensive Lineman has moved on to the NFL, leaving super sized shoes to fill on the interior of the Bulldog defensive front. The good news for the Dogs though is that State still posses depth at the DL position and several candidates will emerge this fall to (attempt to) take Fletcher's place.

On the edges at Defensive End, the dogs may be improved as well with Kaleb Eulls returning with another year of experience under his belt and JUCO All-American Denico Autry coming in at the other end position.

That being said, there are a lot of names to discuss as candidates for the interior and exterior of this defensive front, so let's get down to business discussing the Defensive Line.

Players on roster as of this Spring

Quay Evans 6'3", 300 lbs Fr. Morton, MS (Morton)
Corvell Harrison-Gay 6'3", 270 lbs Jr. Laurel, MS (Northeast Jones)
Devin Jones 6'1", 260 lbs Sr. Olive Branch, MS (DeSoto Central)
Kaleb Eulls 6'4", 280 lbs So. Yazoo City, MS (Yazoo County)
P.J. Jones 6'3", 280 lbs So. Tupelo, MS (Tupelo)
Shane McCardell 6'5", 260 lbs Sr. Beaumont, Texas (West Brook)
Josh Boyd 6'3", 300 lbs Sr. Philadelphia, MS (Philadelphia)
Curtis Virges 6'3", 305 lbs So. West Point, MS (West Point)
Denico Autry 6'5", 255 lbs Jr. Albemarle, NC (EMCC)

Key Members to Replace

Fletcher Cox | 56 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 3 QB hurries, 1 forced fumble (and recovery), 2 blocked FGs

Sean Ferguson | 41 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 3 QB hurries

Key Members Returning

Josh Boyd | 51 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 2 QB hurries

Kaleb Eulls | 30 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 disarmed student on school bus

Newcomers to Watch

Quay Evans, True Freshman, Early Enrollee

Denico Autry, Jr., JUCO transfer (EMCC)

Nick James, True Freshman (on campus this fall)

2011 Position Performance

2011 was a another banner year for the MSU defensive line, as State's front 4 dominated in a good deal of the games during the season. Of course this unit was let by Fletcher Cox, the Yazoo City native whom as we speak is preparing to be drafted in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft. Fletcher went out with a bang in what turned out being his last year on campus, totaling 14.5 Tackles For Loss, recording 56 total tackles and even blocking 2 field goal attempts. Cox's burst off the line simply overwhelmed offensive linemen at times, making his goal of getting into the backfield easy.

But as great as Cox is, he didn't do it alone last year.

Josh Boyd, who returns to lead this unit in 2012, also had a successful year, totaling 51 tackles, 8 TFL, and 4.5 sacks. Freshman Kaleb Eulls was also a big part of the 2011 front, totaling 30 tackles along with 3 TFL and 3 sacks. The dogs at times in 2011 seemed thin up front, but for the most part, Cox's sheer dominance shone brighter than the group's inconsistency on the whole.

State also got a very solid Senior season out of big Sean Ferguson, who disrupted the backfield for 5.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks himself.

What to Expect in 2012

Defensive Line will be another position, along with Cornerback, where the Bulldogs will return some experience. The dogs will obviously have to fill the shoes of Fletcher Cox, but several returning faces and new faces look to do just that.

Denico Autry is one new face on campus this spring that everyone is talking about. The JUCO All-American by way of East Mississippi Community College is already being compared to Pernell McPhee, and some even say he could be better than Pernell. He comes in a bit small at 250, but with the early enrolling in the Spring, hopefully Balis and a good cafeteria plan will fix that. Autry is a talented pass rusher, and could provide a tremendous boost to the Dogs' pass defense this season.

Another new face that will probably see playing time this season is big Quay Evans. Quay was a 5* out of Morton last year who enrolled this Spring and has already been impressive. He shouldn't start with the other depth that State has on the interior, but don't be surprised to see Quay make an instant impact in his Freshman season.

On the interior, State will most likely look to Senior's Devin Jones and Josh Boyd to start, with Kaleb Eulls and Denico Autry on the edges. Don't hold me to this, as much can change from now until September 1st, but these 4 guys should at the least be in the mix for starting positions starting fall camps.

State will also look for Sophomore's P.J. Jones and Curtis Virges to provide depth on the interior. Both are talented youngsters, and should see their fair share of time on the field this season. Throw into the mix Shane McCardell and State appears to be two deep at every position for the 2012 season.

Overall, I would expect another solid year out of this group up front on defense. They may not have one shining star in the bunch like Cox was last year, but expect the results to be solid again across the board. And don't count out Josh Boyd, who is capable of putting up numbers like Cox did last season. I'm excited to see Quay Evans come into the mix on the interior, and I'm hoping Denico Autry is as good as advertised. DL and DE are positions I feel good about going into the fall, and when you throw in Nick James and the other young Bulldogs coming in in the fall, the future looks bright as well in the defensive trenches.

Next up in the FWTCT Football Spring Position Previews is Safeties. Look for the Safeties preview post to go up in the morning.

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