Collins Expects Different Defensive Challenge

The Bulldog defense has had to scheme and practice for a quartet of opponents already. But as Geoff Collins says, nothing so far has prepared for what Mississippi State will see when the season resumes after the open date.

"The big thing is we've played four spread offenses," the Bulldog coordinator pointed out. "And it's a whole different ball game next Saturday night."

That's because it will be Louisiana State on the other Scott Field sideline come October 5 (6:00 kickoff). Not only will this be the first Southeastern Conference guest of the home schedule…but an entirely new sort of offense that Mississippi State has begun scouting. About the only ‘spread' these Tigers try is to spread would-be tacklers aside with old-fashioned muscle.

"It's ‘I', it's power, it's iso, lead-zone," said Collins. "They do a great job, they've got tremendous skill players, and they've got a huge offensive line that's very physical. So just getting ready for that kind of offense is completely different than what we've seen this season so far."

The Bulldogs (2-2, 0-1 SEC) took some preliminary looks at LSU this week. Mostly though Coach Dan Mullen focused the three practices prior to a weekend open date on State itself. On correcting and improving technical issues, brushing-up what has worked to make it better, and getting some gimpy Dogs better before a pair of home games.

The shortened week seems to have gone well for everyone…and got even better for the players immediately after Thursday's practice. That is when Mullen announced that the scheduled 6:00am weights workout before Friday classes had been cancelled. In the ensuing uproar of joy, the coach did have to remind his team they are not excused from Friday academic, and to drive carefully for a quick weekend at home.

Meanwhile most of the coaching staff will be on the recruiting road. Collins for one will have some spring back in his September step after an encouraging defensive performance against Troy, and for the continued development of a largely-underclassman unit. The coordinator spoke with media following Thursday practice.

You've had some young defensive linemen step in already this season? "Oh yeah, it's huge the way that they've played and the way that they've prepared. And I've said all along about (Coach) David Turner, a tremendous ball coach and he's got those young d-linemen playing at a very high level. You know, you see plays where Chris Jones completely takes over the game. Plays last Saturday with Quay Evans stepping up big, Nelson Adams had two tackles for loss Saturday. So the development of that young defensive line has been huge for us."

You have also been alternating Ryan Brown and Preston Smith at one defensive end? "We have. And we've moved a lot of those guys around, and different things we'll do. You know, under-front, over-front, whatever we may be doing and they can play both sides of the line. Because last year at times we'd have a strong-side defensive end and an open-side; this year they're able to play this sides and give us a lot of flexibility."

What do you see as the biggest difference in the defense from last year at this time? "The youth. You know, we don't have John Banks, we don't have Darius Slay, we don't have Cam Lawrence, Josh Boyd. So a lot of those young guys are having to play. I think that with youth brings a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of excitement."

"And I think they've all embraced the mayhem and juice and all those kinds of things. And just the energy and the excitement. We're around each other so much in meeting rooms, where maybe in the past we were kind of split-up with four separate meeting rooms. Now we're all together and it's kind of one collective unit that has been really good for us."

The defense has had more plays behind the line but isn't giving up as many big plays? "The big thing is Coach (Deshea) Townsend and Coach (Tony) Hughes want to make sure they're not getting plays behind us. And that's been a big stress for us. Then just generating pressure, not always with blitzing but generating pressure with some stunts or some line movements or just by playing hard. I think that's been really positive for us."

The starting linebackers have been consistent but you're getting new guys in a lot too? "Well, the last three games we've gone almost every other series. You know, Benardrick (McKinney), Matt (Wells), and (Deontae) Skinner will play a series; and then Richie (Brown), Zach (Jackson), and Beniquez (Brown) will come in and play a series. And there hasn't been a drop-off. Where, we haven't always had that luxury of having six legitimate SEC linebackers that are just constantly rolling. And they have such a good chemistry in my room, I mean they all love each other, they all care about each other, they all want each other to be successful. There's no jealousy in them. So if someone makes a play it's great job, now I'm going to try to go make one even better! And they just keep rolling and try to be very productive."

How many juice points is a standard interception, and then an interception for touchdown? "Well, I think the juice points come in with the celebration! That's where the juice points really come in, and if they bring me the ball! That's a triple-juice point play!" How has LSU's Zach Mettenberger improved? "He's really good, very accurate. You can see a lot of confidence in him, he's playing with a lot of poise. He's not panicking, I'm not saying he did that in the past but you can see him developing more as a complete quarterback. So I've been really impressed the little that I've watched him on tape so far this week."

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