Steve Robertson -

Senior Talks Opening Day, D-Line Teammates, and Following NFL Camps

He means nothing personal. In fact A.J. Jefferson will call both offensive tackles friends. But after a long August, “I’m tired of seeing Elgton Jenkins and Justin Senior!”

The good news is come Saturday morning this Bulldog defensive tackle will see fellows in a different jersey. And he can go hit them as hard as he likes when Mississippi State kicks off the 2016 season hosting South Alabama (11:00am, SECN).

“I’m excited for it, man, first game of the season,” said Jefferson, a preseason All-SEC pick and leader of the Dog defensive line. Plus, the first game in the new-style defensive scheme brought by coordinator Peter Sirmon and line coach Brian Baker.

“So I think it’s going to be fun actually getting to show what Coach Sirmon and Coach Bake and them got us doing now. For the most part I’m excited to do that.”

Jefferson is also excited for events on other fields, as he follows former State teammates working through NFL preseasons. As Jefferson explains, it will mean mixed emotions about who to follow first and most. Maybe linebacker Beniquez Brown will get the eventual edge, though, because “I was already a Packers fan.”

When A.J. Jefferson talks, it’s usually best just to provide his words verbatim and keep the color. Which we do, following:


You’ve played these mid-level schools before. Is it hard not to overlook them? “I think Coach Mullen does a great job of preparing us for it. Some people from the outside looking-in might call you, your uncles or aunts might call and ‘ah, y’all play this team, that team’. But for us looking at it, if we lose that game see where it puts you? That’s got be our mentality no matter who we play. If we lose to them just think about how far it’s going to put you back.”


This is your last ‘first game’, is there any emotions about that? “Yeah, kinda-sorta. I try not to think about that that much. But I’m sure it’s going to be an emotional game, because I have been here five years and it’s been a long ride. It’s been long but it hasn’t been long, it seems like just yesterday I was getting ready to go to the first home game as a redshirt freshman with my hat on backwards!”

“It’s going to be kind of bittersweet.”


What’s it like to play when it’s 134 degrees, do you pace yourself? “Hooooo! I think for the most part competition is going to be the easy part. The way we practice on the Farm, it’s hot every day. Coach Mullen, it’s going to be hot the first game so get used to it. He tries to push us so hard to go ahead and spit it then. Because we know when we get into a game if we ever get to that point we know what it feels like and we know what we’ve got to do to keep ourselves going.”


What is it like having a guy like Nelson Adams in the middle of the line to settle everyone down? “I mean, it’s good. Because since freshman year me and Nelson have been friends, so I know if I need somebody to help ride with me on the d-line as far as leadership I know I just look Nelson, are you going to ride with me? He’s right there.”

“I think it helps out a lot because we’ve all been with the older guys and we know what the expectations are, the standard, how the d-line should play. And Coach (Brian) Baker preaches that to us all the time, like the standard of Mississippi State defensive line. So it’s great having Nelson there to help me with that.”


What do you see from the young linemen, Cory Thomas and Braxton Hoyette? “I see a lot of things. Both of them have different body types. Cory is more of a longer, NFL type. Braxton is more a stout guy. When I think of Cory I think of a Chris Jones, but not a Chris Jones but longer arms and speed off the ball. Braxton really is a big guy but he moves better than anybody thinks he can.”

“I think highly of them for the most part because they have improved a lot since their freshman year. But Cory is probably going to be starting this weekend and Braxton is going to get a lot of snaps at nose guard. So I do have high expectations of both of them.”


With some injuries in the secondary does it make your job more important rushing passers? “Yeah. But for the most part it’s more of a good thing for us. Because it actually challenges us, because I know we have to get home faster and we have to do everything to get our hands up, anything to effect the throw.”

“So ultimately it challenges us and at the end of the day it’s going to make us better because we’re going to be out there trying harder and harder with that in the back of our mind. We know we’ve got a bunch of guys down in the secondary so we’re really got to help those guys out. I mean, I’m sure all of them can hold their own but we just want to make it as easy as we can for them.”


Right now Mississippi State fans are following Dak Prescott. But are you following your defensive teammates, Chris Jones and Beniquez Brown and Ryan Brown? “Tell you the truth, I’m torn between all of them, trying to pick who my favorite team is going to be this year!”

“I ain’t going to lie, though. It’s kind of a toss-up with the Cowboys and the Chiefs. But I don’t want to leave my boy Beniquez high and dry, or Ryan. So it’s real exciting to see those guys. I’ve been here what four years with Dak so I’ve been knowing him for a long time. I came in with Ryan and Beniquez, and I was with Chris for three years.”

“So it’s really crazy seeing those guys have that type of success. It just shows what hard work can get you.”


You’ve going to have to get Sunday ticket, or four screens? “I’m going to have to do something, or just flip back and forth!”


How often do you talk to Coach Baker about the NFL? “Every single day. Every single day. We might joke around with him, we might say Coach we run too much individual (drills), we need to save something for team, give us a break. He’s like guys in the NFL this is how we do individuals.”

“So he tells us every single day what’s expected at the next level; what do guys do, how to prepare like a pro. And he has so much experience. He’s probably told about a hundred stories, and has probably 800 more! So we’ll be talking about one thing, how to play something; he’ll get to talking about my first time meeting Demarcus Ware this happened, that happened.”

“The guy’s full of wisdom, though, I can tell you that much. He knows what it takes, most of the guys he talks about they were already Hall of Fame guys when he got there. So he basically learned from then, too in the process. As far as breaking down film, setting tendencies of the offensive linemen and just the whole offense, stuff like that.”


Has he told you anything specifically you need to do to play at the next level? “Yeah, all the time. He told me straight-up from the first day, I watched you on film and I think you’re going to have a big shot to make some noise in the NFL…but I had to play harder consistently.”

“I think he was true, going back watching myself from last year there were a couple of plays I took off and stuff like that. So he kind of installed it in my I had to be a go-hard guy every play. I mean I’m not 6-6, 6-5, I don’t run a 4.6 in the forty. Being realistic he told me what I’m going to have to do. Because he said if I’m fortunate enough to get invited to a camp, you’re going to walk into a room and see guys and go oh my goodness just for body size. He installed it in my now what I’m going to have to do at the next level.”

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