"From the defensive tackle perspective, we came out with some continuity as far as the first group with Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd.
"Fletcher probably had the best spring of anybody upfront, especially the last eight practices when he was dominant and played at such a high level. I don't just mean his effort but his effort, his execution and technique. Josh was right behind him. Behind them you had (redshirt freshman) Kaleb Eulls and Devin Jones, who improved. With those four, it gives us a solid two-deep.
"You can add (redshirt freshman) Curtis Virges and, hopefully, the young guy, (true freshman) P.J. Jones. It makes you feel good about the depth. So we feel good about that position."
I've heard that P.J. Jones is having a good summer working out.
"He really is. He's been really solid. He has a lot of athleticism. The key with him is him getting used to the speed of the game. Once he does, and learns our system that gives us a multitude of six guys that you can play with inside."
Do you think that you will play Jones this season? It doesn't sound like you want to redshirt him.
"I don't make that decision until they get out there and play. Certain guys can adapt quicker. Some guys have better physical tools at this point in time than other guys. I wait until I get them out there and get them some reps, then they decide it themselves by how quickly they learn the system and us finding a plan for them. That will determine if they play as a true freshman."
Since Cox and Boyd have so much experience, are you going to play them a lot or will you alternate the guys behind them a lot?
"I'm a big rotation guy. I believe that is the difference between winning and losing ballgames, especially in this conference, which is an un front conference on both sides of the ball. The only way you can win consistently at this level is to develop some depth on both sides of the ball. That's how you win the fourth quarter. If we can do that, then we will be in the hunt just like anyone else."
Since you don't have a Fletcher Cox or Josh Boyd at defensive end, is that a concern for you?
"There are some stresses there, obviously, because there are some unproven (guys there). There are some guys there who haven't been as consistent day-in and day-out as you would hope for. But anytime you lose a Pernell McPhee there is always going to be some drop off. Do we have one guy who replaces Pernell? No. So, it will be by committee with a bunch of guys, from Trevor Stigers to Sean Ferguson and Shane McCardell. And P.J. Jones and (true freshman) Preston Smith can move in or out at times. And one other guy, who sometimes goes under the radar is Corvell Harrison-Gay. He's a guy who we didn't redshirt last year and played just a little. During the last five or six practices of the spring, he really had good practices. And he's had a great summer. We are really looking for him to kind of step up and be that guy."
Among the guys you have at defensive end, have two of the five or six that you mentioned stepped up enough to say that they are the starters?
"I believe, at this point, that Sean Ferguson, due to what he did in the spring and this summer, has put himself in a position to be a starter. Then, the other defensive end position is wide open. Someone is going to have to really establish themselves to set themselves apart from the others. There is plenty of talent but it's unproven. For guys like Trevor and Shane, they really have had great summers. They've done everything that we have asked them to do this summer, based on the reports. Now, we are just looking forward to getting them out on the field and start playing ball."
Coming Tuesday Part-2 - Linebackers.
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 email@example.com.