The Bulldogs defense has been, well, great so far this year. Chris Wilson's boys have done well enough to rank 11th in the country in total defense (240.5 YPG). Not too shabby. And with the upcoming opponents: Troy, South Alabama and Kentucky, State should be able to find itself in the top 5, maybe even 1st in the SEC.
I knew this defense would be good as I predicted them to only give up 35 points in the month of September (something entirely possible). But I didn't know they would be this athletic, this deep. I didn't know Matthew Wells would be all over the place....all the time. Wells for breakout player of the year two weeks in: 8 tackles (1.5 for loss), 1 sack, 1 INT (for a TD), 3 passes defended and a forced fumble.
How about Cam Lawrence - leading the team in tackles again with 13. He is the quarterback of this defense, and his presence, both physically and mentally, for this defense is vital.
Benardrick McKinney - the guy is a freak out there. Deontae Skinner too. Between Skinner being a hybrid LB/DL and Wells a LB/DB, the defensive coaching staff has plenty of options. Oh, Chris Hughes and Ferlando Bohanna too - this linebacking corp...I just love 'em.
On the defensive line, MSU is dominating. Did they just get better after Fletcher Cox left? Despite being without Roadhouse, Josh Boyd, Curtis Virges, Kaleb Eulls and friends have bogged down the middle. Auburn was held to 91 yards rushing. Auburn....running back U. Zero rushing touchdowns allowed this year.
The DEs have been solid too. Denico Autry looks like the real deal. Shane McCardell, John Harris, Preston Smith - they've all looked pretty good. Autry and Smith with a sack a piece so far.
The secondary is as good as advertised so far. Banks is living up to the billing, him and Darius Slay both have two picks. Nickoe Whitley has 11 tackles, Broomfield 9. Despite playing soft coverage for 5 out of 8 quarters so far, the passing defense ranks 13th in the country at 140.5 YPG. The DBs have to be licking their chops for when Tennessee rolls into Starkville.
State has given up just 9.5 PPG this year - good for 10th in the nation. If you take away Onterio McCalebb's kickoff reuturn TD (which they didn't give up), it would be 6 PPG, and would be 4th in the country. When you consider all of Jackson State's points were scored against 2nd and 3rd teamers, the scoring defense looks scary good.
This group is what has me really excited about what's in store this year. Defense wins championships because defense keeps you in games. They are talented and deep. When you watch them, they are flying to the ball and making sure tackles. They are prepared. They are making plays and playing with energy. It's exciting.
MSU has had good defenses in the past, but they haven't really had a quarterback and weapons on the other side of the ball that could take advantage of a close game. Perhaps now we do.
When you anticipate over half your defense will play in the NFL - it looks good. Hopefully the trends continue at Troy this weekend. I'm looking for a dominating effort.