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Mississippi State Football 2013 Impact Players: No. 8, Nickoe Whitley

The senior safety comes in at #8 on our list of most important Bulldogs for 2013.

Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE

Nickoe Whitley has been a stalwart in the MSU defensive backfield for what feels like a decade now.  Joining the team in 2009, Whitley redshirted his freshman campaign, but quickly found his way on the field in 2010.  Whitley started 11 of 13 games and played in all, quickly making a name for himself with three interceptions and 52 tackles.

An Achilles injury cut short a rgood 2011 season, one in which Whitley had amassed four interceptions and 34 tackles.  Whitley would bounce back even stronger though last season, registering 88 tackles, three interceptions, and a forced fumble.

Going into this fall, Whitley, now a Senior, is the lone returning member from last year's defensive backfield.  Gone are Corey Broomfield, Darius Slay, and Johnthan Banks, and now Whitley will be asked to step up and be a leader for MSU's defense.  If State is going to improve at defending the pass this year and do so with a mostly all new cast of starters, Whitley is going to have to be a big part of that.  Nickoe needs to become more than just a big-hit threat, he will have to become the type of safety that provides sideline to sideline deep support for his corners.  State will most likely play a more aggressive style of defense this fall, utilizing more blitz and man coverage than we saw last year.  If that plays out, a lot will be asked of Whitley and Jay Hughes with regards to providing help.

if State's defense stands up in 2013 and shines under new DC Geoff Collins, look for Nickoe to be a big part of that success.