"I Don't Want To Miss It"

He doesn't look like a fellow whose bell has been rung. And Ferlando Bohanna surely doesn't sound like someone who intends to spend this Saturday just watching. He intends to play. "I hope so! That's my goal."

Up to this week there was no question about Bohanna participating in Mississippi State's opener against Oklahoma State (2:30, Reliant Stadium Houston). The junior Bulldog has been solidly in the linebacker mix, as the alternate at ‘mike' with Benardrick McKinney and an experienced member of the rotation.

But now a practice concussion puts his game-one weekend in doubt. "I don't know, it will be a game-time decision whether I play or not," Bohanna said Monday. Not so surprisingly he wasn't smiling either, because to all outside observation he seems just fine. "I just talked to the trainers, I'm trying to do everything I can. I don't want to miss it for the world."

Thing is, in the current climate regarding football concussions a high level of caution isn't just wise, it is nearly mandatory. Mississippi State is not about to put a player at risk, in this or any game. So Bohanna has to wait on the proverbial pins-and-needles all this working week first to see if he makes the travel roster and then where he stands in the plans. Or on the sideline maybe.

It's a shame not just for State's defensive plans but Bohanna himself. He's put in his time for three preseasons already and expects to be coming into his junior-year prime now. It's true that sophomore McKinney has moved ahead in the middle linebacker-line, as the younger and Dog's nominations for the Bednarik and Butkus awards proves. Yet Bohanna has been right there the whole time, not conceding the position. If anything he's raised his own game in this intramural competition and that has been to the betterment of both players and the entire defense.

"We both learn from each other," Bohanna said. "He's a bigger guy and I try to do some of the things that he does, and he tries to do some of what I do. The biggest thing is we just play together."

Not that Bohanna is a little guy, at 6-tall and 225 pounds. He's certainly not overlooked by his position coach and coordinator Geoff Collins, who in any discussion of the linebacker lineup always brings up Bohanna in his four leaders for the three spots. "Well I just work hard, I just want to be labeled in that category with those guys," Bohanna said.

"I really study the game a lot, and I learned that from Cam (Lawrence) and Brandon Wilson to study. I think that's what I bring to the table." Plus a healthy level of backup and special teams experience which Collins can plug-in as needed. Bohanna is listed at a middle linebacker, his preferred place in fact, but the reality is he tries to show the sort of versatility this defensive staff demands from middle, inside, outside, whatever they are labeled.

"I mean we all can do everything. That's the biggest thing, that we all can play each position, we all know every position. That's the way we're going to play." Because, he adds, this bunch of ‘backers can play that way. In fact…

"I think this is probably the best group we've had since I've been here. We're all in the same accord and we're ready to play football. We challenge each other every day, that's the goal." Well, one goal; the others are to produce plays at a rate far beyond 2012's results. Bohanna has absolutely bought into the direction Collins provides in this respect.

"He's a great D-coordinator and going to dial up great plays."

Plays which Bohanna really, really wants to have a hand in come Saturday afternoon in Houston. "I'm feeling pretty good. It's finally here, man, we've been waiting on it all year long. So it's here and we're ready to go." If, that is, he is cleared both to go and then to play. Standing on the sideline in uniform won't be the '13 debut Bohanna desires, but he's a Bulldog linebacker. He'll make the best of whatever comes.

"I will be coaching. I will do that for sure."


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