Coach Dan Mullen, upon the advice of the Mississippi State medical team, made the decision to shut defensive end Ryan Brown down in favor of a surgical procedure. The season ending surgery would enable the talented Brown the opportunity to work out for NFL scouts in good health. It also meant that Brown's final game in the Maroon and White had already been played. The Marrero, Louisiana product would miss the Belk Bowl.
Starting in Brown's place would be Johnathan Calvin who forced NC State signal caller Jacoby Brissett into a turnover on the first offensive play for the Wolfpack. Mississippi State would take advantage of the favorable field position and go on to post a 51-28 win.
Calvin would ride the confidence built throughout the fall into the spring practice sessions. Getting to know Coach Brian Baker this spring would be a big part of things for the rising senior who was looking to catch the eye of his new coach. Calvin had an up and down spring, but clearly ended the spring on a high note challenging for defensive MVP honors in the annual Maroon and White game with four sacks and eight total tackles.
With his senior season now weeks away, Calvin is still working to see his name at the top of the depth chart at defensive end.
"I am just trying to continue what I was doing in the spring." Calvin said. "I am just working hard and trying to do my part. I caught on to things a lot faster this time than I did when I came straight out of junior college. I have seen a lot of things before now, so it's easier for me to put things together now. I caught on the new defense a lot faster than I did the old one. I am just going to keep working and come to play in every game."
Calvin was recruited by former Mississippi State defensive line coach David Turner. After playing for Turner as a junior, Calvin has had to learn a new alignment, a new scheme, new responsibilities in the game plan, new terminology and a new coach as a senior.
"It's a big difference than coming in from junior college," Calvin said. "When you're being recruited, you think about what offers you're going to get and about rankings and all of that. This here is a whole different ball game. There's a lot of stuff you have to know in order to be successful."
The man leading the Bulldog defensive line now, Coach Baker, has his own way of doing things. Calvin reports that he feels fortunate to have had the chance to play for two great defensive line coaches during his time in Starkville.
"It's been great," Calvin said of learning the Baker system. "Coach Turner helped me a lot. I learned a lot from Coach Turner. I am learning a lot new things from Coach Baker. He's been around a lot of great guys and he spent 20 years coaching in the (NFL). When he gives me compliments it really means something, because he's coached in the league."
The Bulldogs added some talented players on the defensive end on National Signing day including five star All-American Jeffrey Simmons. The talented reinforcements provide some quality depth as well as some serious competition for the returning players.
"We're all coming along. We're getting along well," Calvin said. "Everybody is getting along and just working hard. The thing I would tell the younger guys is to be big on trying to learn about formations and to take all of that seriously when coach is talking about that in the meetings.
"They tell you a lot of these things in junior college, but I am not sure everybody really took it to heart. Up here, you have to know all of that. There is so much that you have to know in order to play D line here.
"I think we have the chance to be great. We just have to keep coming along as a unit and playing as one. If we keel working hard, we're going to have a big year."
As a junior, Calvin had a hand in 27 total tackles with a season high of six coming on the road at Texas A&M. While much of the focus has been on the quarterback and running back battles on offense, the starting defensive end spot opposite standout A.J. Jefferson remains up for grabs. Calvin looks to be a major factor in that discussion.
Mississippi State begins the season at home on September 3rd as the Bulldogs host South Alabama. The contest completes a three game contract signed between the two programs in 2009. Mississippi State is 2-0 All-Time against the Jaguars with the most recent decision coming in Mobile, Alabama as the Bulldogs won 35-3.