The number one complaint among Bulldog fans eight months ago was the poor play of the defense. There were some folks upset about offensive play-calling, but the cries for Chris Wilson's dismissal as DC were heard the loudest. Well, he's gone and the intense LB coach, Geoff Collins, has been promoted to sole defensive coordinator. Just making a change isn't the only reason to get excited about this defense. No - there are several that I will lay out here. Reasons the MSU defense will be back with a vengeance in 2013.
1. Attitude - this is two fold.
A new attitude with regards to leadership and following the coach's direction. Last year's debacle in the Texas A&M game was horrifying to watch for many reasons but perhaps the most disturbing was the lack of effort showed by the defense save Cam Lawrence. Rumors of dissension among the defensive leaders and disagreements about what the coaching staff wanted to do bled over onto the field and it was painful to watch for most of November.
2. Defensive positioning - I've thought about how Kaleb Eulls, a very talented player, was just too big (6'-4" 290) to be an effective pass rusher at defensive end. He had just one sack in two years of starting. And about how Cam Lawrence really wasn't tailor-made for the strong-side LB position. And then yesterday Beast Man Steve made some really interesting points about how more than half of our defensive personnel wasn't playing the right position in 2012! Getting the right guys in the right place this fall will help us out tremendously. The increased depth and just smarter coaching is attributing to this.
3. Changing the scheme - I think we've all had enough of the soft zone Wilson ran. He played on our heals and most of the time our blitzes involved our elite cover corners. It just blows my mind. You can almost discount the fact that we lost two 2nd round draft picks at CB because we didn't use them correctly anyway. I am ready for "defensive mayhem". I'm ready for a pass rush. I'm ready for a defense that doesn't just allow teams to march down the field destroying our momentum and confidence. I'm ready to get off the field on 3rd down and give our offense some good field position.
4. Depth - It's been since the late 90s when MSU team had as much quality depth as this one does. Take a look at the 2nd string: A.J. Jefferson (4-star), Nick James (4-star), Curtis Virges (arguably as good as PJ Jones), Ryan Brown, Zach Jackson, Ferlando Bohanna (that's a quality backup), Beniquez Brown (4-star), Cedric Jiles, Dee Arrington (4-star), Kendrick Market, Taveze Calhoun. And in the 3-deep we have Chris Jones (5-star), Quay Evans (5-star), Richie Brown (4-star) and Will Redmond (4-star). We could almost legitimately sub the entire 2nd string in and be fine.
There's one thing I think many people around the SEC aren't prepared for, and that's the defense MSU will field this year. They see the loss of half the defense including three draft picks (one being the Jim Thorpe Award winner) and a very important player in Lawrence, and say there's no way we can be that good.
What folks aren't seeing is all the talent we have. The D-line alone includes three former 5-stars and three 4-stars. Have we ever had that much talent? Linebackers have a freshman All-American (McKinney). The 2014 NFL Draft should feature just as many picks from this defense (Autry, Skinner and Whitley). But the media doesn't know what kind of talent MSU has - they didn't include McKinney or Autry in their 3-deep preseason All-SEC selections. No State player made that list.
This defense matches up favorably to the 2010 squad in talent and experience at each position. I expect similar results and success under the new leadership of Coach Collins and new position coaches on the D-line (David Turner) and cornerback (Deshea Townsend).
This group needs to play with a chip on their shoulder from the lack of respect and come out firing early in Houston.
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