MSU Practices In Pads For First Time This Spring
Friday’s practice was the third of the week and the Bulldogs will suit up again at 11:15 a.m. Saturday. Saturday’s workout is open to the public at the Seal Complex.
With pads on for the first time, a veteran Bulldog defense was able to work on several circuits during “thud” periods. Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, who begins his fourth season with the program, was excited about the energy of spring drills.
“There is so much experience coming back that if we came out every day and did the same things we have been doing, there is a chance where they can get bored,” said Collins. “So every day we are throwing a new thing at them whether it’s a coverage, blitz or a scheme. The guys are staying excited and fresh.”
Collins’ defense is expected to be one of the top units in the Southeastern Conference with nine returning starters and plenty of versatility. At 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, junior Benardrick McKinney will be one of the nation’s most physical linebackers. McKinney returns after leading the squad with 71 tackles a year ago.
The experience at linebacker continues with Matthew Wells, Richie Brown and Beniquez Brown. Despite the departure of Denico Autry, the MSU defensive line will be anchored by three seniors in Preston Smith, P.J. Jones and Kaleb Eulls.
“We are big across the board,” said Collins. “All of them can run. The defensive line has length. If you look at Coach (Dan) Mullen’s recruiting profile on defense the last couple of years, it’s long guys with a lot of range and a lot of speed. They can make plays with their size as well as athletically.”
Sophomore defensive lineman Chris Jones is set for a big follow-up to a dominant true freshman season in which he tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with seven while gathering three sacks. Jones has displayed an infectious personality and leadership that carries over to his teammates.
“The first two days, he played very fundamentally sound and a lot of effort,” said Collins of Jones. “We talked with him about letting his personality out. He has a huge personality. He’s 6-foot-6, 308 (pounds) but his personality is bigger than that. We saw that today. He has a big persona.”