Mississippi State is facing a bit of change on the defensive line. With a new scheme and the loss of two starters in Chris Jones and Ryan Brown, the Bulldogs have a lot to adjust quickly if this season is to be successful. But State is incredibly loaded on the defensive front. The only other position group that can rival the wealth of depth and talent that the defensive line has is the linebackers.
And since this new scheme will be implementing formations where there will be some variety and flexibility with who sees the field between the linebackers and the defensive line, Bulldog fans shouldn’t worry at all about any sort of potential deficiencies. The front seven is loaded, and the Bulldogs have plenty to be excited about with 2016’s defensive line.
Notable Losses: Chris Jones, Ryan Brown
Key Returners: A.J. Jefferson, Nick James, Nelson Adams, Johnathan Calvin, Torrey Dale, Will Coleman, Corey Thomas
Big Additions: Fletcher Adams (redshirt), Jeffery Simmons, Anfernee Mullins (redshirt), Kobe Jones, Tre Brown, Marquiss Spencer, Tre Brown
Other Players Worth Noting: Gerri Green, Traver Jung
Mississippi State has SIX seniors returning on the defensive line, including starters in Nick James and A.J. Jefferson. Nick James is the perfect build for a nose tackle as State makes the transition to a 3-4 scheme. Listed at 6’5” and 320 pounds, James is practically made to be a run stopper and clog the middle of most offensive lines.
And then there’s A.J. Jefferson, a man that quickly started terrifying opposing quarterbacks as soon as the season started. He compiled an impressive 13.5 tackles for loss a season ago and totaled 5 sacks. The switch to a 3-4 with varying positions will give Jefferson some freedom to move along the line and out to the Viper position occasionally. He’s going to mess with opposing offenses and wreak havoc along the line.
The group of Nelson Adams, Johnathan Calvin, Torrey Dale, Will Coleman, and Corey Thomas gives the Bulldogs a lot of experience on the defensive front. This group is made up of four seniors and then Thomas, a sophomore, and they’ve seen just about everything that the SEC can throw at them at this point. Adams and Thomas are solid back ups for Nick James, weighing in at 6’3” and 305 pounds and 6’5” and 313 respectively while Calvin, Dale, and Coleman will all likely see an increase in playing time rotating in and out to be another pass rusher.
Mississippi State will also be able to plug in incredibly talented newcomers too. From guys coming off of a redshirt season like Fletcher Adams, Anfernee Mullins, and Kendall Jones to the new influx of talent with freshmen Jeffery Simmons, Marquiss Spencer, and Kobe Jones. In addition to all of those guys, Mississippi State also snagged a 3 star junior college defensive tackle in Tre Brown. Mississippi State created a lot of depth and versatility by adding this group to the team and guys like Adams, Simmons, and Mullins are expected by many to have a sizable impact on this year’s team.
Gerri Green and Traver Jung will both have a bit of an impact on this position group despite the fact that they’re both outside linebackers. And that’s because they’ll get opportunities to line up at the Viper position. From my article on the linebackers:
The “VIPER” position will be an interesting one for Bulldog fans to keep an eye on. Essentially, the position is the hybridization of a defensive end and an outside linebacker and there’s several guys that will play that role throughout the season. Don’t be surprised if Gerri Green and Traver Jung flourish at the spot. Their size and speed will allow them to seamlessly transition between rushing passers and getting back to cover passes.
And they’ll likely split time there with Will Coleman, A.J. Jefferson, Marquiss Spencer, and Anfernee Mullins. There’s a variety of guys that will get time at that position and that gives Peter Sirmon the chance to create some matchups that will likely give opposing quarterbacks some nightmares.
As a whole, Mississippi State has a tremendous amount of depth built up on the defensive line. From six experienced seniors that have seen everything that the SEC can throw at them to the youth movement right behind them that will see the field this year, MSU fans shouldn’t need to worry about a drop off in production from the defensive front.
Peter Sirmon is afforded a luxury of having as much talent at the position as he has and that will give him the opportunity to mix and match and build the best defensive line for whatever situation he has to face. That’s not something most first time defensive coordinators get. And it should prove to be a benefit in a defensive line driven conference.