Maye, the standout Tiger tackler, was able to transfer this summer and play immediately as a 2011 senior. Play he will, too, and not least because Mississippi State is replacing all three starters from the '10 unit. The Mobile, Ala., native brings an impressive resume from his three seasons at Clemson as both an inside and outside man. Though he makes his position-preference clear.
"I have talked to Coach (Dan) Mullen, he was saying he was going to put me where I would best fit. But he was going to put me at middle linebacker. So basically that's where I'm going to start off at." Though, Maye quickly qualifies, "Whatever the team needs me, I don't care what it is; sam, mike or will."
New MSU linebackers coach Geoff Collins is in no hurry to position this player just yet. "I'm excited to work with him. He's a great kid to be around, to talk to, a hard worker, great effort from what everybody says. I've not worked with him on the field or anything like that but just on a personal level I'm excited to coach him come August."
Maye wasn't part of Collins' first spring camp, because he was completing his third school year at Clemson…and earning his degree in sociology. This superlative academic effort freed Maye to transfer to a comparable college which had a graduate degree not available at the first school. That is also the rule just adjusted by the SEC last month, requiring from now on that such fast-track students have two years of playing eligibility remaining instead of one.
Meaning that Maye may well be the last such high-profile transfer to take such a route into the SEC. Sure, he's proud of this unique status, and "It's a great feeling to know how close I was, that's why I say all praise be to God, because he was the one that set it up like this." Maye is working on a sports administration graduate degree with the July semester just underway.
He's also working towards his 2011 season, and if it will be August before Maye can line-up in a practice position there is plenty labor booked for July. No, jumping into the now-legendary regimen of strength coach Matt Balis did not come as a shock; his cousin, MSU linebacker Chris Hughes, had provided advance warning.
"Coach Balis is the real deal, I'll tell you that!" Maye said. "He's been getting after us every day and bringing his A-game. That's what you want a strength coach to do. And we've got a team full of hungry guys, whenever you get that you get great results." More good news is Maye was well-prepared by a solid Clemson strength program so Balis hasn't been that much of a shock to his system.
"Both staffs are very good staffs, they both have their unique things that they do but both are great-run programs."
So far, so good. But what of jumping right into a roster of guys who saw success last season and figure they have things on the right track already? This has been no change of any Maye personal pace. Well, OK, other than when he arrived in the locker room one day and found all his nice Clemson gear in the trash can…after being sliced and diced by Dogs to make a point. And Maye was proud to wear a brand-new Mississippi State maroon shirt to his first official media meeting today, too.
"It's been amazing, the guys embracing me as a leader already off the bat. Just keeping me up, and just making each other work hard. That tells you the character of this team, they just work hard. It's been a pleasure for me to be here."
Why, the Mobile boy has even adapted immediately to another MSU frame of mind…though he added "I (already) thought it was a team called ‘the team up north'!" he laughed.
Maye is feeling all fresh about this second-start in other ways. 2010 was a tough season, by his standards. He had 43 tackles and a half-sack in nine games playing at the weak-side position. Not bad numbers for many but a huge drop from the 103 stops he posted in the 2009 regular season as a middle linebacker. Maye missed four games as a junior with a variety of ills.
When full-speed, though, he hit Boston College for ten total tackles and North Carolina State for nine more. He has started 33 out of his 35 career games. Now, naturally, he hopes to pick up where he left off; not so much last fall but after '09 when he was an outstanding middle-man.
And if any wonder about friction from existing Dog vetenans, naaah. Why, junior Brandon Wilson, who came out of spring first-team at middle linebacker, has even been helping the guy who wants his job get right up to summer-speed. Obviously a willing attitude from Maye has eased the transition.
"My goal is just to help any way I can. I'm not coming in trying to be the high-hand or the big-head guy or guy that says awww, I'm a three-year starter and things like that. Instead I'm coming in with my arms open and wanting to do whatever I can do to help this team be in Atlanta."
That isn't just p.r. talk, by the way. Maye is dead-set serious on winning a conference championship. He had a shot at one already, as part of the 2009 team that was 80 seconds away from the Atlantic Coast Conference title.
"Oh, man, I want it so bad. I started in the championship game against Georgia Tech, right there I just let it go at the end on the last drive. So I'm hungry to make sure I leave here with that ring on my finger and I'm going to do anything in my power to make that happen." Naturally, he also looks forward to a regular-season rematch here with South Carolina coming to Starkville.
Maye said there need be no concerns he'll start August camp behind MSU veterans in terms of knowing schemes. Just check his reaction on first glance at the Bulldog defensive playbook.
"Aww, I can get this, pretty easy," he said. That's not bragging, by the way, just football fact. "This is very similar to the scheme I played as a freshman, which I was first-team Freshman All-American in." Maye said new overall MSU coordinator Chris Wilson's sets have more zone schemes that free a linebacker to be more aggressive—and thus productive—in run stopping. But just in case, last year's work in a Clemson approach that had him doing a lot of man-coverage will come in handy as well here.
Both defenses have their pros and cons, so it's a great opportunity for me to go back on the path of my freshman year," he said. Besides, he had a chance to check Mississippi State out on TV last season and liked how Chris White played middle linebacker. "I watched them against Auburn and Florida, I said I like that defense.
"But I never knew I'd be in this position right here! It's an opportunity for me to do something special."
And not just in football terms, either. Maye has broader horizons for himself as a senior, befitting an academic all-star. That, by the way, is something his new position coach is proud of.
"The neat thing about Brandon is he wasn't a great student in high school, he didn't have the greatest test scores he'll tell you," Collins said. "But he goes to Clemson and gradates with a 3.5. That says a lot about who he is as a person, and once he sets his mind to do something he does it."
"It's just an opportunity for me to branch-out and play in the SEC," Maye said. "And, get back closer to home, I have some personal issues that I need to address." Beyond that, he plans on providing a personal touch around this new home town. "I've been working on my connections, getting with the right people in the community to be able to give back."
What it all adds up to is that at this unique moment in Maye's developing career, Mississippi State just happened to provide all the elements he wanted before making a move. Such as the chance to get back in the middle of an aggressive defense, for one.
"Then you had a team that had a great year and they're going in the right direction. Then you've got a community like Starkville where you can reach out at some of the high schools around here help these guys stay on the right path and keep their eyes on the prize. That played a very big part in it."
Now Maye plans to play a big part in taking his Bulldog team to championship level. He believes the ingredients are here; even moreso the attitude.
"It's definitely a sense since I've been hanging out with the guys of wanting more. They weren't satisfied with how they finished last year, they want more. When you get that and all the guys on the same track, you get guys fighting for the SEC West. You can find yourself in Atlanta in the championship game if you can get that every day consistently."
And who knows? This newest Bulldog might find himself a by-line for future reference when transfer cases come up. The ‘Brandon Maye Rule' has a nice ring to it, he thinks.
"Yeah, that'd leave a stamp on it, wouldn't it?"