Steve Robertson - Genespage.com

Collins, Mississippi product Mark McLaurin shares his thoughts on the Mississippi State defense.

The Mississippi State secondary has been in transition for most of the calendar year. The Bulldogs were already expecting two new starters at cornerback with a pair of seniors moving on to the NFL, but injuries forced some new faces to some new places. Sophomore Mark McLaurin has had to get used to working alongside a collection of moving parts.

Mark McLaurin had to learn to communicate with a pair of new corners in the first half of fall camp, Tolando Cleveland and Cedric Jiles only to see them replaced due to injuries by Lashard Durr and Jamoral Graham. With the promotion of Durr and Graham, sophomore Chris Rayford also moved up into the rotation at corner and fellow safety Jamal Peters joined Coach Terrell Buckley's depth chart outside.

Against LSU, Brandon Bryant went down late in the game, which pushed redshirt freshman Maurice Smitherman into action. To say McLaurin has had to stress the process of communication would be putting it mildly. 

"It's really just the same no matter who else is out there," McLaurin shared. "Everybody has their own different talents, but we just keep the rotation going. We just have to communicate and be sure that everybody is on the same page once we go on the field."

In Peter Sirmon's defense, McLaurin has been asked to do a variety of things as well as play with a healthy variety of players. The talented sophomore can be seen playing over the top as a deep safety or lining up near the line of scrimmage to aid in run support or take part in the Bulldog blitz package.

The opportunity to be more multiple and line up in different spots adds some spice to the game for McLaurin.

"It's good to me, because you just never know what I might have to do in the future." McLaurin said. "I never know what my role may be as my time goes on here at Mississippi State. It's all a learning process and I enjoy it. I enjoy blitzing and I enjoy being able to make more plays and just help the team."

Through three games this season, McLaurin has had a hand in twelve total tackles including seven solo stops. Throw in a tackle for loss and a pass break-up and McLaurin is certainly earning his scholarship money in the early going.

The Mississippi State defense played a strong brand of football in the second half down in Baton Rouge to give the Bulldogs a chance to steal an important SEC road game. While the scoreboard did not prove kind to Coach Dan Mullen's team, McLaurin believes some players grew up during the contest.

"We already had a lot of confidence, but we went in at half time and talked about everything," McLaurin shared. "We wanted to come out in the second half and keep fighting. We just wanted to keep going and keep going and we had some things go our way in the second half. We just have to keep fighting for four quarters."

In the first half, LSU was able to convert some big third downs and keep the Bulldog defense on the field. McLaurin reports that the squad needs to be a little better at getting off of the field if they expect to reach their full potential.

"We just have to capitalize in those situations, because we were dominating on first and second down," McLaurin shared. "We just have to keep fighting and stay locked in at all times. You never when a big play is coming, so everybody just has to be expecting it and be ready to bring 11 hats to the ball."

McLaurin, a south Mississippi native, will venture north to the New England area for the first time in his young life. The experience this weekend is more about winning a football game than marking another state off of the bucket list. While playing in an NFL venue is intriguing, McLaurin reports that the weekend trip to Foxboro is all about business.

"It will be a different experience going all the way up there, but playing wise it's really no different," McLaurin said. "We are just looking at this as another Saturday with the lights on. We just have to go up there and play to the best of our abilities. 

"I am ready to get back on the field and play again. After a loss, we just can't wait to get back out there and play again. We can't let that loss define us. We just have to keep fighting."

UMASS will provide the opposition this week. While the Minutemen are 1-2 on the season, they have played two power five programs tough, Boston College and Florida. Last week the program earned a win over Florida International, so there is some optimism for the home team heading into the weekend.

McLaurin reports that Mississippi State is working hard this week to ensure that they are ready for whatever UMASS throws at them this Saturday afternoon.

"They are a pretty good team," McLaurin said. "They can throw the ball pretty good and run it pretty good too. We just have to come out and play hard and play hard as a team. We need to figure out how to play a full game of football as a team. We know we have that in us, so we need to find it and hopefully we can do that this weekend."

The Bulldogs (1-2) will look to even their record this weekend against their second non-conference opponent of the 2016 season. Mississippi State is favored by over three touchdowns, but will certainly not take anything for granted as they tee it up at Gillette Stadium this Saturday. 


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