The Mississippi State Bulldogs may have received more attention for their prolific spread offense over the past decade, but, as the old saying goes, defense wins championships, and the Dawgs are building quite a defense. Returning stars such as Jonathan Simmons, Leo Lewis, and Montez Sweat will strike fear into the hearts of opposing offenses, and they follow in the footsteps of some Bulldog greats.
The building blocks of any great college program must come from NFL production, and the Bulldogs defense has produced some terrific NFL talent. KJ Wright, a Bulldog linebacker from 2009-10, helped bring attention to an underrated defense upon his graduation to the NFL, becoming a starter for the stout Seattle Seahawks defense which took back to back trips to the Super Bowl, winning in 2013 and losing in 2014. Wright also earned his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2016.
Bernardrick McKinney, another standout linebacker and leader of the 2014-15 defense, was selected in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. He has since risen through the ranks to become an important player in another notorious NFL defense, earning second team All-Pro honors in 2016.
In the secondary the bulldogs produced players such as ball hawk Jonathan Banks and coverage master Darius Slay, the former being a Jim Thorpe award winner, and the latter a first team All-Pro corner.
Perhaps the strongest unit for the Bulldogs in the last few years has been the defensive line. Preston Smith and Chris Jones are two of the latest standouts to become regulars in the NFL, playing at Washington and Kansas City respectively. They followed in the footsteps of Pernell McPhee, another prolific edge rusher, and, perhaps the most successful of the defensive lineman, perennial All Pro and Super Bowl Champion Fletcher Cox of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The unprecedented success of Bulldog defenders in the NFL has certainly played a part in continuing to improve the team on the recruiting trail. More often than not the top players in the recruiting classes are defensive players.
Joe Moorhead has continued that trend.
The 2018 haul saw standouts such as Fabien Lovett, Jaden Crumedy, and Sh’Mar Kirby-Lane amongst others join the maroon and white ranks. Moorhead has also gotten off to an early start for 2019, securing commitments from 3 4-star defensive linemen in Charles Moore, De’Monte Russell, and Ani Izuchukwu.
The future is already looking bright for the Bulldogs, and Moorhead’s offensive prowess has everyone in Starkvegas excited for the 2018 campaign to kickoff, but let’s not forget the defensive players who helped get this team to where they are now, many unnamed in this article as well. They’re success ensures future success for the Bulldogs, who are given extra ammunition in recruiting for every NFL success story.