As we are well aware, Mississippi State is a staple for defensive talent. With that said, this year’s upperclassmen tandem of Thompson and Gay Jr. look to take things up a notch. Both players have plenty of experience, and should fill their respective stat lines come this fall.
Thompson, a prototypical hard-nosed middle linebacker can read the eyes of the quarterback and deliver massive hits. His impact on the game is lethal as he will be the primary face of the Bulldogs’ defense. In 2018 Thompson posted 87 total tackles, 10 for loss, four sacks and two interceptions. Thompson can impact both the running and passing game, as he will be heavily relied on given the SEC’s offensive talent.
Deemed ‘quarterbacks of the defense,’ middle linebackers must exhibit leadership, another quality of Thompson’s that must not go unnoticed. Expect similar numbers this season with a spike in total tackles and those for loss. Thompson should have his way and make his name that much more apparent.
On the outside is Gay Jr., whose responsibilities will heavily increase. Gay Jr. posted 48 total tackles, 5.5 for loss, five sacks, two interceptions and a pass defensed. Comparable to Sweat, Gay Jr. can set the edge and, like Thompson, get to the quarterback. Look for this to be his breakout season.
Like his counterpart mentioned above, Gay Jr.’s numbers should also see a significant spike. As he is a savant at setting the edge, Gay Jr. may end up with double-digit sacks. Gifted with speed, he should be a nightmare for quarterbacks and/or running backs looking to run east to west.
The two will be going up against the best, but have the requisite skill-set and pieces around them to match up. While the Bulldogs did lose a lot, Thompson and Gay Jr. are more than capable defensively. Expect both to be key factors in year two of the Moorhead era.