MSU Football: Defensive Safeties Spring Analysis

What does defensive coordinator/safeties coach Ellis Johnson think about his group of safeties? Who will step up and provide depth behind the two starters? Is former Parade All-American Darren Williams showing signs of being the player he was in high school? Find out in this fourth part of a nine-part analysis of all the positions.



  • 1) Darren Williams (6-2, 200, JR.)
  • 2) Slovakia Griffith (5-11, 200, SR.)
  • 3) Marlon Perry


  • 1) Jeramie Johnson (6-0, 197, SO.)
  • 2) Rickey Wright (6-0, 200, RFR.)
  • 3) James Cooper


  • Gabe Wallace - 2003 Backup
  • Kevin Dockery - Moved to cornerback for 2004

    Despite the move of Kevin Dockery from safety to corner this spring, the position he played as a freshman, and the loss of veteran backup Gabe Wallace, the free safety and strong safety positions are still two of the most experienced on the team.

    Former prep Parade All-American Darren Williams, a player who has recorded 123 tackles and started 16 games in his two-year career, is the starter at the free safety position. Playing next to him at strong safety is sophomore Jeramie Johnson. Last season, as a true freshman, Johnson made 52 tackles, while starting 6 of the 12 games that he played in.

    Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson, who coaches the safeties, has liked what he has seen from both players.

    "(Darren Williams and Jeramie Johnson) have had pretty solid scrimmages and graded out pretty well," said Johnson. "The best thing about their play is they are productive and made plays. That's what we are asking of them."

    Backing up Williams is senior Slovakia Griffith, a three-year veteran who has played in 35 games, starting 6, during his career. He has recorded 35 tackles.

    Johnson, after seeing Griffith play this spring, has been impressed.

    "Slovakia Griffith is playing behind Darren and is playing as well as him and Johnson," said Coach Johnson. "Because of that, I doubt that I will do anything on the depth chart because he is getting just as much work as the others."

    Although he doesn't have the two-deep depth that he would like at both positions, he is hopeful that he can find one guy among the threesome of Williams, Johnson and Griffith that can add depth at both.

    "It is a case where if one of the three can play both positions I may let him rotate in and out with the other two," said Johnson.

    Behind those three are a couple of walk-ons and a talented redshirt freshman. All three have shown some good things during the spring but don't appear ready to make a major move up the depth chart.

    "Rickey Wright, (James) Cooper and Marlon Perry are the other three in there," said Johnson. "They are doing ok, but aren't playing as well as Griffith, Williams and Johnson. They are all young and are just now learning the system."

    If Williams finally lives up to his All-American expectations coming out of high school and Coach Johnson finds a player that can handle both positions, this could become one of the strengths on the defensive side of the ball.

    Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is You can contact him by emailing

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