A Q&A With MSU DC Chris Wilson

Mississippi State defensive coordinator Chris Wilson talks about who he sees competiting for the defensive end spot and linebacker spots vacated by Pernell McPhee, K.J. Wright and Chris White.

What have you seen from your defense after the two spring practices?
"They are a year into it and I like the learning curve. We aren't having to re-teach concepts. The guys are really learning who we are conceptually.

"It is going to be different, obviously, due to there not being a Pernell McPhee, a Chris White, a K.J. Wright. Sure we are going to be different but the concepts will remain the same other than a tweak here or there. And they have done a great job of grasping it."

Who are the guys who are candidates to replace McPhee at defensive end?
"To be honest with you, we really haven't found them yet. The candidates are the usually suspects. When you look at them you have Shane McCardell, Sean Ferguson. Those are the guys who have really making a case (at defensive end). And you are hopefull that Kaleb Eulls can develop into that guy as well as Trevor Stigers. (Some of) those guys have made plays versus Florida and in other big environments."

Where is Eulls going to play, defensive end or defensive tackle?
"We are playing him at both. He's our swing guy. We are playing him inside and playing him on the edge. The great thing about him is he's so athletic. He gives us a lot of flexibility. He reminds me a lot of the guys that we had at Oklahoma, such as Tommie Harris. He's athletic enough to play in space and he's physical enough to move inside to the three-technique."

How has he improved since the fall?
"He has had a wonderful offseason. He kept his weight around 275, and he's still fluid, still changes directions well. His offseason gains under (MSU head strength) Coach (Matt) Balis were very impressive. And he hasn't lost much athleticism at all. Those are the things that stand out.

"The second most important thing you see is that he is not making a lot of mental errors. When you have a guy like that who can play both positions and not make many mental errors, that helps you out a lot."

White and Wright, both linebackers, are gone due to graduation. Two guys who are competing for those two spots are Ferlando Bohanna and Chris Hughes. What have you seen that you like from both of them?
"Their athleticism. The thing that Chris Hughes is is an athlete who you feel comfortable playing on a number 2 or a slot. Another thing that helps is he has played in ballgames because he has played football here for a year. He's been in ballgames and kind of understands it.

"Bohanna has also helped us out there. The things he can do as a MIKE (middle linebacker) are really impressive. He's athletic but, more importantly, he is instinctive.

"Matt Wells is another guy who can help us. We are playing him both at safety and bringing him down (to linebacker), which is very similar to what we did with Roy Williams at Oklahoma. We play him in the box, play him as a half, move him all over the field because a guy who is already 6-2.5 and 220 pounds and run the way he does, we can do so many things with a guy like that.

"The next guy is Cameron Lawrence. He's really stepped up. And we feel like we can play him either at WILL or SAM.

"And obviously Deontae Skinner and Michael Hunt are guys, especially Skinner, who I can see making that transition at WILL or MIKE."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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