MSU DC Chris Wilson Talks Linebackers

Mississippi State defensive coordinator Chris Wilson sat down with Gene's Page and talked about each of the positions on the defensive side of the ball. Today, in Part-2, he talks about the linebackers.

The linebackers group is very similar to the defensive end position - a lot of talent but young, unproven talent in some cases. Among your linebackers who do you see as your first-team guys at this point and who would be their backups?
"At the WILL position Cameron Lawrence really had a great spring. His spring was probably as good as anybody's, including Fletcher. So, I see him as a guy who is a starter at that position.

"At MIKE Brandon Wilson had a great spring. Obviously, with (Clemson transfer) Brandon Maye coming in that helps with the competition as well. But they can play multiple roles. What you really like are backers who can play more than one position. That way, you are always playing the next best player. And I think that is one of the things that (linebacker coach) Geoff (Collins) has done a great job of, getting his guys to play multiple positions. No one is just the WILL, SAM or the MIKE. That really gives you the freedom to play the next best guy.

"At SAM, with (redshirt freshman) Matthew Wells and Chris Hughes, I see good competition in the upcoming camp. It will be critical to see who the guy is that could be the SAM backer for us.

"And you have Deontae Skinner who can play either the WILL or the SAM. And including (redshirt freshman) Fernando Bohanna, you have six guys who are SEC football players. The key thing is just getting them the reps this summer so that they will be ready for Memphis."

Would you say the talent level of the players you have at linebacker this year is as good or, potentially, even better than what you had last season?
"I believe we have upgraded in regard to athleticism. So, yes, as far as athleticism. But the one thing that you can't teach is experience, how many games and battles those guys have been in. It's our job, as coaches, to simulate that this fall camp by getting them as many reps as we can so they will play as well as they possibly can.

"And the main thing is it will always be players first. We don't think scheme first, we think players first. So, we are always going to do what is best for those guys who are out on the field. There is talent across the board, our job, as coaches, is to put them in the right position."

Of the guys you mentioned above, who, among the players MSU fans haven't seen play in a game or play much, may be the guy who will surprise Mississippi State fans this season?
"Skinner. I think he is a guy who stands out. Bohanna is a guy who stands out. I studied our spring cutups all summer long to try to do things just a little bit better, and those guys really had impressive springs."

What did they do?
"Two of the biggest things are that they played with great effort and they have great instinct. There are certain things that you can't teach, they just do them well. And two, they know our system. For guys as young as they are, to pick our system up as well as they have is really impressive. And they stay within the framework. They don't try to be anything that they aren't. As we like to say, they keep the main thing, the main thing. And they made a lot of plays. They are play makers."

Coming Wednesday Part-3 - Defensive Secondary.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

Gene's Page Top Stories