Benardrick McKinney Relishes Experience

After a year under the SEC lights, sophomore linebacker Benardrick McKinney reflects on the valuable experience he gained and the future of his defensive unit.

With Mississippi State in the fundamental stage of spring practice, McKinney is itching to get onto the more physical aspects of the game.

"I'm pretty anxious to get the pads on and get back to playing football, the game we all love. It's a good feeling to get back out here," said McKinney.

Even though the redshirt sophomore is in his second spring, he is taking it in from a new perspective. The Bulldogs have recently taken over the Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex, and the new digs have McKinney raving.

"God blessed us truly. We have a great facility; it's so big you'll get lost in it. It's a great feeling coming from something a little smaller to something so big. To have a facility for just football players, it feels like a home," McKinney stated.

Last fall, McKinney was second in total tackles, recording 102. Additionally, he racked up 45 solo tackles, 4.5 for loss, and 1 sack. The emerging linebacker realizes that his experience will help him grow and improve in his second crack at SEC football.

"It's going to help me on my keys and just knowing the game a little better. Everything I didn't do right last year, now I know what to look for," said McKinney.

Even with his success as a redshirt freshman, Benardrick states that the SEC and college football was no cakewalk.

"Some things that surprised me were the guys were way bigger and stronger, but I'm strong too. Also, the game was a lot faster. To adjust, my coaches just encouraged me, players helped me out, and we watched film," McKinney said.

One particular player that left a lasting impact on McKinney was senior linebacker Cameron Lawrence. Lawrence moving on to a chance in the NFL will leave behind 120 total tackles for McKinney and his fellow linebackers to chase down.

"Cam is a great player, but we're a team. We are all going to fill Cam's shoes as a unit. We are all going to gang up as a defense and make big plays," said McKinney.

McKinney also gave some insight on what he took from Lawrence's leadership.

"Never give up, always pursue your dreams, go hard every day and encourage people to get better," he said.

Another slight change for the defensive side of the ball is the promotion of linebacker coach Geoff Collins to defensive coordinator. McKinney likes the head of his linebackers pushing the entire defense to improve.

"Coach Collins is a great coach; he's a very smart guy. He's running things and we're getting better. It's a good thing that Coach Collins is the linebacker coach and he's the defensive coordinator now," said McKinney.

However, Collins is not going to let his extra duties get in the way of his linebackers playing the speedy and scrappy style of ball that he instills in them.

"As linebackers we're going to work as a unit anyway; we're going to grind anyway. We're going to do a lot more things that we didn't do last year like play harder, run to the ball, be more physical. We're just going to be a better team, and Coach Collins is going to get us a lot better," McKinney stated.

Carew Ferguson is a feature writer for the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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