"When I got here I was 6-3, 185 pounds," said Washington. "And in the SEC you can't play linebacker at 185 pounds. As I progressed through the program, I started seeing results; my weight rose to 230.
"The increase in weight helped my physicality and my strength. The guys tell me that they can see a tremendous difference in me when they go against me in practice. Personally, I feel more comfortable and confident."
His weight increase was a step by step progression.
"During my first summer here I got up to 205," said Washington. "Then, the months when I was being redshirted my body really changed. By December I was 225. Then, when the spring came around I was 235. But today I played at 225. I feel comfortable at 225 and 230, either one is fine."
As for what weight he will ultimately play at, that is still a work in progress.
"The coaches have told me they are going to put whatever weight on me that I feel comfortable with it," said Washington. "My body will tell me what is best for me. I'll know by running around in practice. If I look slow and sluggish and get easily fatigued, then I will tell the coaches. And they will be able to tell me as well. But right now, I feel fine."
While adding body weight was an important aspect of his game that he worked on during his redshirt year, he also realized his knowledge of the game wasn't where it needed to be.
"During summer training when we watched film with the (veteran) players of my position group, I realized that college is much faster than high school," said Washington. "Then, when fall camp came around there was a lot of installation of plays at one time. I saw that I had more things to learn and that I needed to concentrate more. I also realized that I needed to get a lot better at the game."
In high school, a player with SEC talent, like Washington has, allows you to get by mainly on that talent. That's not the case in college because everybody in the SEC has that same type talent. To separate yourself from the rest, you have to add the mental aspect to your game.
"Things that I needed to get better at were technique, reading offenses, figuring out if they are going to do this or that, then also trying to tell the defensive line which way they may be going, trying to know what scheme we need to be in during a play, basically processing everything one down at a time," said Washington. "It may have all been a little overwhelming at first when I first got here but our coaching staff has prepared us well for everything."
He also used his time on the scout team to improve his understanding of reading offenses.
"What really helped me was playing for the scout team my redshirt freshman year," said Washington. "We were going against Dak (Prescott) and the rest of the starting offense. That helped me as far as learning how to read the offense as well as learning the game at the college level."
Washington now has an SEC body and a much better understanding of the game. The only thing he lacks is game experience. And he will be getting that is a little over a week.
"Knowing that I am about to play in my first college game is very exciting," he said. "I can't wait to get out there and help my team in whatever way I can, whether it be on special teams or on the defense. Whatever the coach asks me to do, I want to go out there and execute my job to the best of my ability so our team will come out victorious."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network.