A.J. Jefferson Feeling “A Good Nervous”

As A.J. Jefferson describes it, that is one big happy bunch of brothers in the defensive line meeting room. Or maybe there’s another word for it? “We have a lot of different personalities on the group,” as Jefferson said.

“I mean obviously me, Chris (Jones), Nick (James), we’re the goofy ones. Ryan (Brown) is the serious one, he’s more of the grandpa of the group. Nelson (Adams) has kind of that favorite uncle, he gets serious sometimes and sometimes he wants to joke with you. Then his brother Fletcher Adams, oh my goodness, he’s the jokester of the freshman class.”

“I think its great having all these personalities on the group. It gives us a lot of character.”

A whole lot of characters, too. Even better from a Mississippi State perspective the gang Jefferson describes, along with several youngsters still establishing their own persona, there is a whole lot of talent here.

Talent that is about to get the first serious test. When #14 Louisiana State lines it up Saturday night, the Bulldog defensive front is where things will be won. And lost. Somebody will walk, or more likely limp, away from Scott Field having been beaten at the point of first and most contact.

It’s the sort of straight-up situation a defensive end like Jefferson wants. This is the way football should be played, the Dog junior figures.

“LSU is a team whose not going to change. They favor the run, lead-zone. So we have to stop that. Basically we know we’re going to have to gap it up and be some men up front.”

The visiting Tigers definitely have a main man to haul the ball. Leonard Fournette set LSU freshman records with over 1,000 rushing yards and ten touchdowns. That was just getting his (presumably quick) college career started.

Jefferson has seen some good runners in this league already. This one?

“Leonard is a great running back. We know we have to tackle him. We really don’t want to put our little guys in one-on-one situations. So the big guys are going to have to rally to the ball and get him down.”

The Bulldog defense, keyed by dominating line play, did get Southern Mississippi down and mostly out of rushing last Saturday. Going to the air produced more yards and most of the points but wasn’t going to beat Mississippi State.

Not with Jefferson and Brown combining for three sacks and four hurries. They were able to beat Eagle blocking consistently after interior tackles Jones, James, Adams the elder, and Torrey Dale tied up protection. Or just blew it up.

“Like Coach (David) Turner told us, it was a lot of good stuff going on in the game. So I went back and watched it. I love how we play as a group.”

Not to be vain, but Jefferson had to admire his own work. Though, he said, he noticed some tweaks borrowed from teammates. “Going back watching it, I’ve seen a lot of stuff that I picked up from other guys.”

That’s interesting as Jefferson came into 2015 already well-regarded for his pass rush talents and improving run stopping skills. If he is taking cues from the rest, it should only expand his potential play-making. Also, it needs reminding, Jefferson was only making his first college start last week after two seasons in rotation.

“It feels real good. I’m still learning from Ryan Brown since he’s the only full-time returning starter. It feels really good.”

Jefferson said he felt pretty good leaving Hattiesburg, too. That despite playing more snaps than anticipated. For a combination of reasons the Dog defense had to stay on the field way, way longer in the first half.

Yet the group, especially starters, had enough juice to make four-straight stops inside their three-yard line which all but defined the game. “Everybody manned-up and beat the guy in front of them,” Jefferson said. “I think we’re going to need a lot of that this weekend.”

As the year goes on he also knows the defensive line will need extra aid. That’s where redshirt freshmen like Cory Thomas and Braxton Hoyette are expected to bring their talents to the team. And, maybe, their characters to the meeting room?

Either way, “I feel it’s very important,” Jefferson said. “I mean, we’re conditioned to play a lot. But Nick and Chris are going 50, 60 snaps a game, it’s going to take a toll on their body along the season.

“Coach Turner tells (the redshirts) every day we’re going to need them sooner or later along the line to help us win a game. It’s important we hurry up and get those guys ready to play.”

Jefferson is absolutely ready to make his first State start on the home field. Yes, even if it brings a LSU offense that is going to slam straight into the Dog defense, and may the best beasts win.

“I can’t say I’m not nervous. But it’s more a good nervous.”

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